Undoubtedly we Americans are a consumer driven society. We love to buy and do so at times when we really shouldn’t. Yet on other occasions we don’t buy when we really should have.

When it comes to healthcare, we exhibit the same kind of illogical behavior: We go out and buy health products which are at best at waste of money and at worse downright dangerous. And we pass on great health related purchases.

Here, taking a cue from Letterman, is my top ten list of waste of money medical products. I will start with the first five.  Next blogs stay tuned for the rest of the worst and then the top ten list of best medical buys. These lists are not in any particular order, which means that number one is not necessarily the best/worst and the same for number ten.

10. Vitamins: Americans are hooked on these things and vitamin companies are well aware of this. Witness the slick commercials with young, fit people engaging in some kind of outdoor sport with meadows and a clear, meandering stream. The message is of course that if you take these advertised vitamins, you too will look like the models and be fresh like the stream. The reality however is that you will fork out a lot of dough;have very expensive urine (full of vitamins); and if you take too much of fat soluble vitamins such  as A, D or E might harm your liver. In smokers vitamin A use has actually been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. Too much Vitamin C can cause kidney stones and really at best has only a very modest effect on colds. Some people such as pregnant females, certain cancer patients, those with severe malnutrition actually need to take vitamins, but for the rest of us: save your money!

9. Antioxidants: Also a big waste of money. Again, the commercials with the athletic types, suggesting that merely taking the stuff will somehow cause your muscles to grow and your waist to thin. The awful truth is that they really don’t work. In fact, there are no studies of which I am aware showing any long term benefit in terms of conditioning or cancer prevention.

8.Antibiotics: Here we doctors are at fault. Under pressure from patients, who have watched too many commercials and forgetting the dictum”first do no harm”, we prescribe mounds of this pills , while knowing deep down that many of the conditions for which these pills are prescribed are in fact viral. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses which  cause most ear infections and bronchitis/colds. Antibiotics do save lives, but should only be used in bacterial infections.

7. Cold Medications: Almost anything which you can buy over the counter for colds is not worth the money. No study has ever shown meaningful clinical improvement with these drugs. To make matters worse, these medications can also cause strokes, increase your blood pressure, and can give you a heart attack. Some can make you confused and tired. In short, take Tylenol or Ibuprofen and drink plenty of fluid.

6. Tanning booths: Here is  a service which resembles smoking, in that it is legal and if used as directed,  causes cancer. Skin cancer is on the rise worldwide and tanning booths are doing their part to keep this rate high. Forget the tan and use suncream.

Next blog I will go over the last five ways to waste your money.