The Paula Gordon Show
Health's Trinity

Edwin (Ted) D. Bransome, Jr., M.D.

. . . is Professor of Medicine and Director of the Department of Medicine's Quality Management Program at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. He also sits on the Board of Trustees of the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Government in 1820, to monitor the identity, purity and strength of America's medications. He is a leader in medical affairs nationally and at the state and local level in Georgia.

Excerpts

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs have exploded onto the health care scene. There are well over 10,000 prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs available and that does not include what's available in health food stores and "botanicals." Doctors are squeezed for time and patients are often afraid to ask questions. The net result, according to distinguished physician Edwin (Ted) D. Bransome, Jr., is that we all must become more responsible patients.

Dr. Bransome is Professor of Medicine and Director of the Department of Medicine's Quality Management Program at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. He is on the Board of Trustees of the United States Pharmacopeia, which was Congressionally chartered in 1820 to set the standards of strength, quality, purity, packaging and labeling for medical products used in the United States.

Dr. Bransome has a "prescription" for the growing dilemma of so many drugs, an increasingly complex medical system, physicians spending less and less time with more and more patients: Know about the drug, medication or treatment that your doctor prescribes for you. Know why you're taking it, how to take it, the dangers of taking it incorrectly. Know how your drugs interact with other drugs. And know when to call the doctor. Be informed. That starts with asking your doctor questions and may well include using tools like the annual Complete Drug Reference (CDR). Outstanding doctors volunteer their expertise and time to work with the U.S. Pharacopeia and the Consumer Union -- no drug companies invited -- in compiling this unbiased and authoritative guide.

Dr. Bransome also takes us inside the medical profession where drugs are only part of the explosion of information. More than 20,000 medical articles are published each year. A host of technologies compete to provide enhanced health care, from "CHINS" -- community health information networks -- to expert systems, "electronic dog tags" to alternative approaches being developed in other parts of the world. Dr. Bransome offers examples of this increased complexity, based on his own sub-specialty -- endocrinology, the study of the chemical messenger systems in the body.

And Dr. Bransome manages calmly to touch most of the sore spots in today's practice of medicine, including "managed care." Practically everyone acknowledges that health care needs to be managed, he believes. The arguments are about who is doing the managing!

Even if you're one of those patients who thinks of all the questions you want to ask after you get home, you do well to take an larger share of the responsibility for your own health care, starting with your drugs. Ask questions of your physician and pharmacist. Remember, the best patient is an informed patient. Doctor's orders.

Conversation 1

Dr. Bransome describes to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell the origins and importance of the United States Pharmacopeia, chartered by Congress in 1820 to provide standards for the identity, purity and strength of medications. He describes why it is critical for patients to take their place along side physicians and pharmacists, all three responsible for knowing about the drugs and natural remedies we take.

Conversation 2

As more and more pharmaceuticals become available every day, Dr. Bransome explains why we need better standardization, better information for taking drugs and better ways to avoid making mistakes using them. He describes the massive information physicians must now access in making decisions and tells why care givers and getters can't wait until computer-based "expert systems" become available. He warns people of the dangers of misinformation available about drugs on the Internet. He describes how best to use the Consumer Reports' Complete Drug Reference to become a better consumer of drugs.

Conversation 3

Dr. Bransome is adamant that the best patient is the best informed patient and describes how to play that role in our own health care. He describes how computer technology may some day improve health care, comparing the models being developed in Europe and America and contrasting them to different approaches being taken in America, one in the civilian sector, one in the military. He describes how to ask effective questions of your doctor and tells why doing so is vital to your health and well being.

Dr. Bransome describes the powerful ill-effects of not getting or following instructions on drug use. He tells us why the real argument about "managed care" is who is doing the "managing."

Conversation 4

Dr. Bransome makes a powerful case for patient responsibility, from the drug counter to the death bed. He points out the significant causes of chronic illnesses in this country are behavioral and suggests what we should do to move toward "disease management." He offers the Complete Drug Reference as one more tool in that pursuit.

Conversation 5

Alternative treatments and botanicals are facing increased scrutiny by the US Pharmacopeia and others, including the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Bransome describes how our knowledge about the chemical message systems in the body has exploded and explains how important those systems -- which together are called endocrinology -- are in interaction with the drugs we take.

Conversation 6

Dr. Bransome gives a quick course on how to use the Consumer Drug Reference (CDR), from how to find the drug in which you are interested to when to call the doctor. He compares the CDR to the Physician's Desk Reference which is paid for by drug companies and given free to doctors. He applauds the accessible writing style of the CDR. Dr. Bransome tells us what he sees as the impact of television advertising for prescription drugs. Once again, he urges a dialogue between patient and physician with the active participation of one's pharmacist.

Acknowledgements

We were pleased Dr. Bransome's wife joined us as we talked the Dr. Bransome. Mrs. Bransome is also an advocate for patients, particularly those with diabetes. Together, they drove through torrential rains to be with us and we are grateful.


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