While medicine remains a profession of lifelong learning and care of others, it is also very much a business. Physicians and other health care providers serve the needs of patients, but we can’t do so if we are unable to reach them. While a great number of physicians—apart from our pediatrician colleagues—focus their efforts on an aging patient base, the reality is that we may need to reconsider our marketing strategies. Millennials, the generation with an often obscure definition (sometimes born after 1983, sometimes as early as the late 1970s) is fast becoming a powerful market force. Made of around 1.8 billion adults, the group has now overcome the Baby Boomers as the largest generation, accounting for almost a quarter of the American population.
There is an opioid crisis in America and our patients are aware of it. Did you know that 530 individuals die each week due to opioid overdose.1 The media has effectively publicized this growing problem, and patients are aware of the role that legally prescribed opioid medications can play in dependence and addiction. Congress and state governments are also paying attention.
In February 2018, Congress promised $6 billion over two years for initiatives to fight opioid abuse, and many state legislatures have proposed limitations to the number of opioid pills physicians can legally provide to their patients. Right or wrong, physicians must be aware of these new laws and be willing to change their prescribing practices in order to comply. However, instead of waiting for legislation to shape our practices, we can and we should look to new guidelines to help patients avoid developing dependence on prescription opioids in the first place.
As healthcare providers and physicians, we increasingly see patients using medical marijuana in our clinical practices. While medical marijuana was historically shunned due to its classification as a Schedule I drug, its variable potencies and unpredictable patient responses, modern medical marijuana has made significant inroads in medical practice. Currently, in the United States, a total of 31 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico allow public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. In addition, another 15 states allow the medical use of low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD) products.