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The principles of conservative prescribing

Updated: June 01, 2009

No matter what your politics, a conservative approach to medications is a good idea.

The old, jokey line was "take two aspirins and call me in the morning." But, of course, doctors prescribe a lot more than just aspirin these days. The medicine cabinet is crammed full: cholesterol-lowering statins, stomach acid–reducing proton-pump inhibitors, antidepressants, asthma drugs, diabetes drugs, sleeping pills, hormones. The amount of money that Americans spent on prescription drugs tripled between 1997 and 2007, although growth in our collective "pill bill" has slowed for many reasons (see sidebar).

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