Saturday, April 29, 2006

Drug companies "inventing diseases..."

Drugs companies 'inventing diseases to boost their profits'
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

PHARMACEUTICAL companies are systematically creating diseases in order to sell more of their products, turning healthy people into patients and placing many at risk of harm, a special edition of a leading medical journal claims today.

The practice of “diseasemongering” by the drug industry is promoting non-existent illnesses or exaggerating minor ones for the sake of profits, according to a set of essays published by the open-access journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

The special issue, edited by David Henry, of Newcastle University in Australia, and Ray Moynihan, an Australian journalist, reports that conditions such as female sexual dysfunction, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and “restless legs syndrome” have been promoted by companies hoping to sell more of their drugs.

Other minor problems that are a normal part of life, such as symptoms of the menopause, are also becoming increasingly “medicalised”, while risk factors such as high cholesterol levels or osteoporosis are being presented as diseases in their own right, according to the editors.
“Disease-mongering turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources and causes iatrogenic (medically induced) harm,” they say. “Like the marketing strategies that drive it, disease-mongering poses a global challenge to those interested in public health, demanding in turn a global response.”


Doctors, patients and support groups need to be more aware that pharmaceutical companies are taking this approach, and more research is needed into the changing ways in which conditions are presented, according to the writers.

Disease-awareness campaigns are often funded by drug companies, and “more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health”, they say.

Particular conditions that are highlighted in the journal include sexual function in both men and women. The prevalence of female sexual dysfunction, one paper claims, has been highly exaggerated to provide a new market for drugs, while the makers of anti-impotence medicines, such as Viagra and Cialis, have been involved with their presentation as lifestyle drugs that can boost the sexual prowess of healthy men.

Ordinary shyness is routinely presented as a social anxiety disorder and treated with antidepressants, while newly identified conditions such as “restless legs syndrome” — a constant urge to move one’s legs — are presented as being much more common than they really are.
Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, rejected the accusations, pointing out that Britain has firm safeguards against disease-mongering. Many of the authors’ criticisms, he said, were aimed squarely at countries such as the United States, where pharmaceuticals can be openly advertised directly to patients.


“Drug companies are not allowed to communicate directly with patients, and we do not invent diseases,” he said.

“We provide information that there are treatments out there that might help certain conditions, but at the end of the day it is down to health professionals to decide if they are appropriate.

The best safeguard is that the doctor who knows the product and knows the patient’s history is the one who decides what to prescribe.”

TRICK OR TREAT?

MENOPAUSE
Symptoms
include hot flushes, night sweats and loss of libido
Criticism too often “medicalised” as part of a “disorder” when it is a normal phase of life


IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
Symptoms
include constipation, cramps and diarrhoea
Criticism promoted by drug companies as a serious illness needing therapy, when it is usually a mild problem


SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION
Symptoms
impotence in men, lack of libido or difficulty becoming aroused in women
Criticism drugs such as Viagra marketed not only for treating genuine erectile dysfunction caused by medical problems but as lifestyle improvers


OSTEOPOROSIS
Symptoms
thinning of the bones, particularly among postmenopausal women
Criticism portrayed as a disease in its own right, when it is really a risk factor for broken bones


RESTLESS LEGS
Symptoms
urge to move legs because of unpleasant feelings, often at night
Criticism prevalence of a relatively rare condition exaggerated by the media, along with the need for treatment

10 comments:

Bar Bar A said...

VERY interesting!!!!

Badoozie said...

i commented on this on Foo's blog quite a while back in regards to the flu vaccine. it goes for other vaccines we give our children as well. i oppose some vaccines, and if you are ever interested in stuff on that, let me know.

Cheryl said...

It is really strange how all these "diseases" and "illnesses" have come to light. Taking a short detour, if you look at death certificates when doing genealogy, you'll see a lot of these diseases/illnesses haven't changed. Granted, sexual dysfunction wasn't up there as a cause of death, but a lot of the other things were (i.e. irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis). Another factor to consider is our environment. It has changed drastically since the early 1900s when we lived in an Industrial industry where steel, coal and energy production were the focus of our society.

That being said, just how much is the pharmeceutical industry hyping things. Granted, there's too much publicity and information is much easier to come by thanks to the Internet (which Gore did not invent), but we're an Information Society -- craving knowledge and the ability to get it at any moment.

Taking all these factors into consideration...are we really run by the pharmecutical companies or are we just more informed?

Food for thought.

Fred said...

Wow...did I learn some pretty interesting stuff!

Anne said...

I need a pill.

EmmaSometimes said...

Oh, it's a pill popping nation..don't get me started.

How much better off would we be if we were better informed, researched natural ways, diet, exercise, foods, herbal natural remedies like say, papaya for indegestion and ginger to prevent arthritis? How about banning all soda to prevent childhood obesity, Irritable Bowl Syndrome and bone loss?
Stock holders of Coke would freak out..it boils down to the almighty dollar. Shocker.

We could easily rid ourselves of many of these 'diseases', including those pushed on us by the drug companies on a daily basis across our tv screens.

I'm not saying drugs are not the answer to all ailments. Herbal remedies are just as much a drug, don't you think? It's just not harsh on your system, or lining the pockets of RX companies?

Most of America would rather pop a pill for a symptom than to fix the problem. It's a nice big Barbie bandaid for gangrene.

I warned you..hehe. Don't get me started.

Anne said...

Ms. Emma - I'm right there with ya! I can really get on a roll. No one wants to be responsible for themselves and wants someone else to fix it for them.

Danny Haszard said...

Appreciate your blog,i have a victims support page against Eli Lilly for it's defective Zyprexa product causing my diabetes.--Daniel Haszard www.zyprexa-victims.com

alisa said...

Viagra is one of the best known pills for erectile dysfunction but is also said to reduce men's fertility by decreasing the ability of their sperm to fertilize an egg. Do not buy viagra without a doctor prescription.
http://www.viagracare.com

Dr.tom said...

As soon as you administer Viagra to the system, its chief chemical component sildenafil citrate springs into action and starts inhibiting the PDE 5 enzyme. Alongside the inhibition of PDE 5 enzyme, the administration of viagra also accelerates the effect of nitric oxide and it leads to the smooth flow of blood to the penis and as a consequence, the person becomes capable of facilitating erections necessary for sexual intercourse.