Friday, April 28, 2006

Still Beating Your Wife?

So tell me, are you still beating your wife?

This not so funny line surfaced many years ago as an example of asking a question that makes you look bad no matter how you answer.

If you say “no”, that implies you did beat your wife but are no longer.

If you say “yes”, well, you know . . .

Now you can ask the big drug companies the same question, just phrased differently. “So tell me Pharma, are you still telling people they are sick just to sell your drugs?”

A lot of money can be made from healthy people who believe they are sick. Pharmaceutical companies sponsor diseases and promote them to prescribers and consumers

This particular practice of “inventing” disease has been a burr in my saddle for some time now. At one time we had heartburn. The treatment was to take an antacid and refrain from eating the food that caused the discomfort. Now we have medicines that allow us to eat freely of anything without experiencing the repercussions.

I am not a doctor, but something tells me if my body reacts negatively to a substance, perhaps I should listen to my body rather than some advertiser. It’s like the first puff on a cigarette; your body is trying to tell you this may not be good for you.

Some forms of medicalising ordinary life may now be better described as disease mongering: widening the boundaries of treatable illness in order to expand markets for those who sell and deliver treatments

It seems to me the author of this article is taking some liberties by creating words like “prescribers” and “medicalising” but I am not going to take issue with that because I do believe the underlying message needs to get out.

Within many disease categories informal alliances have emerged, comprising drug company staff, doctors, and consumer groups. Ostensibly engaged in raising public awareness about underdiagnosed and undertreated problems, these alliances tend to promote a view of their particular condition as widespread, serious, and treatable

No argument there. There is definitely a benefit to getting information about symptoms into the hands and minds of the public. This is good when you talk about early warning signs for cancer or heart condition. I have to question the purpose when the condition is a hair loss, an irritable bowel or yellow nails.

Around the time that Merck's hair growth drug finasteride (Propecia) was first approved in Australia, leading newspapers featured new information about the emotional trauma associated with hair loss.

Emotional trauma? Give me a break. You would think this is a male form of post-partum depression.

Irritable bowel syndrome has long been considered a common functional disorder . . . . . . What for many people is a mild functional disorder requiring little more than reassurance about its benign natural course is currently being reframed as a serious disease attracting a label and a drug, with all the associated harms and costs.

No doubt, DTC (direct to consumer) advertising has its’ place and it does produce positive results when a patient is encouraged to discuss symptoms of a REAL disease with their doctor. But some of the information is just going way too far.

And in case you are wondering, now that my hair is not falling out I am no longer beating my wife.
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