Vitamin sales are booming at the expense of prescription drugs

The recession is forcing people to look for ways to cut their health care costs.

One unfortunate method is bypassing physician visits and prescription medications in favor less expensive vitamins and supplements.

According to the NY Times, here’s a typical example: “In flusher times, Ms. Parham said, she spent $50 a month on prescriptions for her asthma, allergies and other chronic problems. Now, she pays $6 a month for over-the-counter protein supplements and oregano oil capsules. ‘That’s an important savings for me,’ she said. ‘It means I can rent a movie or make the kids food that they actually like.'”

Vitamins often don’t work they way they’re advertised, and they should never replace something that was prescribed. I suspect much of the so-called effectiveness is due to the placebo effect, which, in itself can be perceived as effective.

The medical profession is not immune to the allure of questionable supplements. Consider the physician assistant cited in the article, eschewing organic fruits and vegetables for cheaper fish oil capsules (which actually does have some data backing up its use) and antioxidants (which, conversely, have no data).

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