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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Legal Drug-Pushing: How Disease Mongers Keep Us All Doped Up – John-Manuel Andriote – Health – The Atlantic

daily dose

daily dose (Photo credit: nirbhao)

By manipulating our fear of suffering and death, big pharmaceutical companies are able to keep us coming back for expensive medications

Legal Drug-Pushing: How Disease Mongers Keep Us All Doped Up – John-Manuel Andriote – Health – The Atlantic

Excerpts from this article from the 3 April 2012online edition of The Atlantic

.Pharmaceutical giants, like small-town pizza parlors, have two options for making more money: convince regulars to buy more of what they obviously like, or find ways to persuade more people that they will be happier with this drug or that thin crust with extra cheese.In the case of the drug companies, it’s not our taste buds they’re appealing to. Instead, they market prescription drugs directly to consumers — a practice legal only in the United States and New Zealand — by, basically, manipulating our fear of suffering and death.These “disease mongers” — as science writer Lynne Payer in her 1992 book of that name called the drug industry and the doctors, insurers, and others who comprise its unofficial sales force — spin and toil “to convince essentially well people that they are sick, or slightly sick people that they are very ill.”Changing the metrics for diagnosing a disease is one reliable technique. Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor of pharmacology and director of the industry watchdog group PharmedOut.org at Georgetown University School of Medicine, pointed to how the numbers used to diagnose diabetes and high cholesterol have been lowered over time. “The very numbers we use have been reduced to the point of absurdity,” she said. “120/80 was considered normal blood pressure; now it’s considered ‘pre-hypertension.'”Entirely new diseases can be, and have been, invented to extend a manufacturer’s patent on a highly profitable drug. Fugh-Berman said Eli Lilly stood to lose a lot of profits once the patent expired on its hugely popular antidepressant Prozac. “So they positioned this new condition, PMDD (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder), and then went to physicians and the FDA with their highly paid experts who said PMDD is a tragic disease, and they got approved for Sarafem, the same drug. It’s an on-label use for a repackaged drug; they created the disease and then got a drug re-approved that was going off patent.”..

The article goes on to outline one feature of the “medical industrial complex” –  the expansion of disease categories to include precursor conditions as psychosis risk syndrome. These categories are included in professional manuals, making it easier for drug companies to develop and market new drugs associated with conditions recognized by medical associations.

The authors also asks if Americans are being overdiagnosed through an overly medicalized drug culture partly created through aggressive prescription drug advertisements.  Responsibility for addressing this issue is in the hands of consumers, professional health care providers, government regulators, and all who contribute to our culture (as artistis, writers, and journalists).

Read the entire article here.

Related Resources

  • ClinicalTrials.gov -up-to-date information for locating federally  and privately supported clinical trials for a wide range of diseases and  conditions. A clinical trial (also clinical research) is a research study in  human volunteers to answer specific health questions. Interventional trials  determine whether experimental treatments or new ways of using known therapies  are safe and effective under controlled environments.

A growing number of clinical trials publish at least some of their results at ClinicalTrials.gov
Use the Advanced Search and use the Search Results to limit to Studies with Results

  • Cochrane Systematic Reviews
    (Click here for the free summary version)Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting. They are published online in The Cochrane Library.Each systematic review addresses a clearly formulated question; for example: Can antibiotics help in alleviating the symptoms of a sore throat? All the existing primary research on a topic that meets certain criteria is searched for and collated, and then assessed using stringent guidelines, to establish whether or not there is conclusive evidence about a specific treatment. The reviews are updated regularly, ensuring that treatment decisions can be based on the most up-to-date and reliable evidence
  • Drug Information Portal
    A gateway to selected drug information from the US government. It links you to information on over 12,000 drugs from trusted consumer drug information sources (as MedlinePlus Drug Information), the US Food and Drug Information (as Drugs @FDA), LactMed (summary of effects on breastfeeding), and more.
  • Clinically important safety information and reporting serious problems with human medical products.
    Safety information includes drug information, recalls & alerts, drug shortage information, and medication guides.
  • Adverse Reaction Online Database contains information about suspected adverse reactions (also known as side effects) to health products, recalls, advisories, and warnings from the Canadian government
  • Learn about your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Includes side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.
    Browse dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.
  • We should treat diseases not create diseases to treat (medrants.com)
  • Pop. Snort. Parachute.(New York Magazine, 2005))

    To many New York teenagers, all the world’s a pharmacy. There is a vanishing distinction between pills for medication and for recreation, and the much-touted risk of suicide misses the point.By David Amsden Published May 21, 2005

    “….Drug companies, though, have plenty of incentives to market their drugs to kids. Adolescents represent a relatively untapped (but rapidly growing) market for drugmakers, something any successful business looks to exploit. And they’re generally encouraged to do so by the government. A federal law passed in 1997 allows a drug company to keep its patent an extra six months by performing clinical trials on children, which translates into enormous profits. Zoloft, for instance, grossed about $3.1 billon in sales last year, so that additional time is hugely lucrative.

    Meanwhile, the shame associated with psychotropic meds continues to dissipate as doctors write more prescriptions and the diagnosed “disorders” become less severe-sounding. First there was depression, then social-anxiety disorder; now we have general-anxiety disorder, which Xanax’s Website defines as having “vague feelings that something bad is going to happen,” an apt description of what it’s like to be an adolescent. Zoloft’s Website describes social-anxiety disorder as often starting in the “mid-teen” years, and yet the drug’s television ad campaign, with its cartoon powder puffs, looks like a Sesame Streetouttake. And while Pfizer denies targeting kids, teenagers themselves aren’t so sure. “That’s so geared toward children,” Timothy told me. “It’s like, ‘You’re not happy anymore? Here, take some pills and you’ll be appreciating butterflies left and right!’ ”

    “What’s really changed is that now they market medical conditions,” says Marcia Angell, a member of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine and author of The Truth About the Drug Companies, the just-published indictment of big pharmaceutical firms. “It’s simple—there will always be more healthy people than sick people, so they need to make more people think they’re sick. Teens are naturally going through an intense period of ups and downs. The marketing makes them think the downs are unacceptable, that they’re a disorder.”

    What such marketing cannot take into account is that kids are cynical, reluctant to take the word of adults at face value. When this attitude mixes with prescription drugs, it turns into a desire to reinvent their intended uses in a manner that’s not necessarily ill-intentioned. Because the taboo truth is that illicit use can be legitimately helpful, which makes the dangers that much easier to overlook….

  • Many NIH-funded clinical trials go unpublished over two years after completion (with ClinicalTrials.gov link for many trial study results) (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
  • Pharmaceutical Companies Turn to Checklists to Sell More Drugs (labsoftnews.typepad.com)
  • Painkiller sales soar across U.S., spread to new areas (usatoday.com)
  • Tony Bennet Says Legalizing Drugs Could Prevent Deaths Like Whitney Houston’s; Prescription Drugs Aren’t Safer (blisstree.com)
  • The billion-dollar battle over premenstrual disorder (salon.com)

April 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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