June 13, 2018
Public Health Practice alumna Mika Pollack (nee Timika Lightfoot) MPH ‘05 is the creator and host of the new podcast Overprescribed. The series is designed to raise America’s awareness on pharmaceutical medications in an effort to improve consumer health and reduce the preventable harm and death that can be caused by prescription drugs.
“My goal is to raise awareness and hopefully action in everyday consumers all around the country,” Pollack states. “I want people to better protect themselves by doing things like reading their drug label warnings before taking their medicines, knowing more about how medications are being prescribed, knowing what resources are at their fingertips to learn more about their medications, and realizing things like which medicines may have higher safety concerns.”
Each week Pollack and her guests address an array of topics like the statistics of addiction, history, societal perspectives, epidemics, issues and the interplay between prescription medications and our healthcare system.
Overprescribed comes as prescription drug addiction is increasing in the U.S. “It’s not just opioids in this country that are problematic,” Pollack says. “For example, there’s a global concern about the overuse or misuse of benzodiazepines [anti-anxiety drugs] which are commonly prescribed but also can have severe withdrawal effects for people who stop taking the medication.”
Pollack was inspired to launch this podcast from her firsthand knowledge and experiences with pharmaceutical medications, both personally and professionally. “My mother was a victim of polypharmacy, as were friends of mine who have suffered severe adverse drug reactions from taking their medications as prescribed.”
After earning her MPH degree from UMass Amherst in 2005, Pollack took a job with a pharmacoepidemiology research consulting group in North Carolina. There, she learned more about the larger world of pharmaceutical drugs and the risks involved.
“I worked as a project manager and research epidemiologist on multiple studies involving drugs already being marketed and sold in the U.S. We tried to understand the safety risk associations when taking certain medications at the same time and how that patient exposure would impact a person’s overall health status or quality of life.”
Pollack credits her time at UMass Amherst for the motivation and inspiration to create positive change.
“I soaked up everything I could in graduate school — from coursework in health care program planning and evaluation to epidemiology and public health ethics. Ultimately, I think being a public health student inspired me to be a constant and persistent investigator, to speak my mind in doing the right thing to advocate for disadvantaged populations, and to prevent poor health outcomes in communities all across America. “For me, it’s consumer healthcare advocacy where I’d most like to leave a mark in society and I hope the podcast is just one step in that direction.”