Rebranding Medicine: Becoming a Better Version of Yourself

During a recent encounter with a patient, I experienced a rare moment of insight. As we chatted about her well-being, she preemptively remarked, “I know my cholesterol is high, but I do not want to take anything.” A sentiment I hear often.

On a whim, I responded, “If I recommended a supplement, would you take it?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Yes.” We both laughed. She continued.

“When you take a supplement, you aim to become a better version of yourself. But when prescribed medication, it feels like there’s a problem. Even after taking the drug, it seems something remains wrong with you.”

It was a perspective I hadn’t considered before. “Sounds like we have a branding problem in medicine,” I mused. She wholeheartedly agreed.

As this conversation took place, my medical student was interviewing our next patient, who had mild diabetes. Such patients often benefit from metformin, an old yet effective drug. When presenting the case, the student informed me, “I’ve already told the patient you might suggest metformin. They’re not interested.”

Recalling the earlier conversation, I decided to try a different approach. “Would you consider taking a prescription supplement derived from French Lilac?”

To which the patient replied, “Yes.”

It’s a fact we often forget: metformin originates from the French lilac or goat’s rue plant (Galega officinalis), known for centuries in traditional European medicine, particularly for alleviating diabetes symptoms.

Discussing this epiphany with a colleague, she pointed out that when we prescribe medication, it might feel as though we’re stripping patients of their autonomy. With supplements, patients decide the what, when, and how. But with prescriptions, it often comes across as doctor’s orders: “Take this. Ensure it’s before meals. Return in 3 months for a blood test, and we’ll tell you how significant your issue still is.” Words hold power. It’s crucial to emphasize “Becoming a better version of yourself.” We should actively seek ways to embed more autonomy in our discussions with patients.

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