We are fortunate to live in an age when prescription medicines are readily available to cure or treat everything from hypertension to Alzheimer's disease. As promising as it is, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we used it as an excuse to become complacent about our health. That might sound strange coming from a representative of the very companies who make medicines to treat diseases. But it's not. Many of the breakthrough medicines our companies develop work best when paired with proper preventative care by health professionals and smart lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercising and abstaining from cigarettes and too much alcohol. Let's face it: It doesn't do you much good to take insulin to manage your diabetes if you follow it up with a dozen cupcakes!
Appropriate health screening tests are also important. Take treating diabetes for example: Early diagnosis can prevent complications such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure, heart attack and even death. When was the last time you went to the doctor for a checkup? Many of us don't hesitate to take our children to the pediatrician for their regularly scheduled "well child" exams, but completely ignore our own "well adult" needs!
Disease prevention is also an enormous public health issue. Chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease account for more than 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care, and are the number one cause of death and disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most importantly, many chronic diseases are also preventable.
According to estimates from the CDC, 80 percent of heart disease or stroke cases, 80 percent of diabetes cases and about 40 percent of cancer cases could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised regularly and ate a balanced diet. These are three things we have the power to control.
The impact of good diet and exercise choices cannot be overstated. Last year when Queen Latifah announced that she was going to lose 20 pounds, she said she didn't do it to look thin - she did it to be healthy and fight off diabetes, having lost her great-grandmother to the disease. One year later, she's reportedly lost the 20 pounds - and 20 cholesterol points in the process.
Medicines also have a role in prevention. A new report from the American Heart Association found that the U.S. death rates from heart disease and stroke have fallen by about 30 percent this decade because fewer people are smoking and more people have better control of cholesterol and blood pressure, often with the help of medicine.
There's more good news on the horizon for patients who need help from medicine to manage their heart health. A recent survey by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) revealed 277 medicines in development for heart disease and stroke, keeping up the momentum of drug discovery that has helped cut deaths from these diseases by more than half since the 1950s.
Patients who need help accessing their prescription medicines for chronic diseases and other conditions can turn to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Since its launch in April 2005, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance has helped connect more than 5 million patients in need to programs that provide either free or nearly free medicines. For more information, patients can call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or visit www.pparx.org.