Do I Use or Prescribe Pharmaceutical Drugs?

Of course I do when I feel it is appropriate. For instance, the other day, a patient came in with a sudden onset of fever, chills and symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Because a urinary tract infection can spread to the kidneys with serious consequences, I immediately started her on antibiotics. But most patients come to me with chronic problems like headaches, indigestion, depression or fatigue. And these issues cannot be resolved with antibiotics or drugs.

What I’ve learned over the years is to see these type of symptoms as pointers to some underlying imbalance in the system that needs to be corrected.

If I correct the imbalance, the symptoms usually go away. So, instead of rushing to use drugs to suppress the symptom, I look to see what the underlying dysfunction or imbalance is and if possible try remove the cause.

For instance if you have heartburn, taking a drug like Nexium will help the symptom but not treat the underlying imbalance nor the cause. And if you don’t deal with what is causing the heartburn, you will need to stay on the Nexium indefinitely, which is what the drug companies want. But this is not good for your health as you are removing the cause and correcting the problem. So you are bound to have other consequences later on and in addition, most drugs have side effects especially if taken over a long period.

I think it is important to realize that suppressing symptoms may be necessary short term but is not a long term solution. Heartburn is not a Nexium deficiency, headaches are not a Tylenol deficiency and insomnia is not an Ambien deficiency. These are all warning signals your body is giving you that something is out of balance. Listen to your body!

So, yes, I do use drugs when I feel it is appropriate, especially for acute short lived problems like bacterial infections. But for all chronic problems, I will always look for the underlying imbalances and possible causes and will try less aggressive treatment modalities first. As we Physicians all learn at medical school, “First, Do no Harm.”


For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.