James Le Fanu is our most incisive medical journalist, and in his excellent new book he turns his attention to the dangerous and expensive phenomenon of overprescribing. We have long passed the stage when there was a pill for every ill: we have progressed to the stage when there is an ill for every pill.
First, he provides evidence of the enormous increase in the number of prescriptions that doctors in Britain write, an increase of 300 per cent in only fifteen years. Is this because we are more ill than we were? And is there evidence that the increase in prescriptions has improved our health?
On the contrary, says Le Fanu, the evidence is that our life expectancy has fallen, particularly among the very elderly, precisely those for whom the number of prescriptions has risen most sharply, such that an appreciable percentage of them are now taking at least ten different medications. Le