The Corporate Sponsored Creation Of Disease - Disease Mongering

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The corporate sponsored creation of disease

The corporate sponsored creation of disease--"
disease mongering"-- turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources, and causes iatrogenic harm, say the guest editors of a special issue of PLoS Medicine devoted to how drug companies sell sickness.

The guest editors, Australian journalist Ray Moynihan and clinical pharmacologist David Henry (Newcastle University, Australia), define disease mongering as "the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments."

New diseases are being defined, they say, by panels of specialists who are often funded by the drugs industry. Such diseases are then promoted by industry-sponsored "disease-awareness campaigns," usually designed to sell drugs rather than inform the public about preventing illness or maintaining health.

Eleven articles in the special issue describe different forms of disease mongering:

* Aspects of ordinary life, such as sexuality, are being medicalized and turned into illnesses. Joel Lexchin (University of Toronto) argues that a drug was marketed not just for treating erectile dysfunction due to medical problems like diabetes, but as a drug that "normal" men could use to enhance their potency.

* Mild problems, such as everyday irritability in children, are portrayed as serious illnesses needing powerful drugs. David Healy (University of Wales) looks at how companies are "selling" bipolar disorder, leading to a surge of diagnoses of bipolar disorder in American children, some as young as two. "Drugs ... are now being used for preschoolers in America with little questioning of this development," he says.

* Health problems are routinely being framed as extremely common. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz (Dartmouth Medical School) analyze the news coverage of a little-known condition called "restless legs syndrome," a compelling urge to move one's legs. The authors found that the media exaggerated the prevalence of the condition and the need for treatment, and failed to consider the problems of over-diagnosis.

A recent Reuters Business Insight report on so-called lifestyle drugs stated starkly: "the coming years will bear greater witness to the corporate sponsored creation of disease". 

"Around the world, there are tentative steps to identify, understand, and combat the threat to human health from the corporate-sponsored selling of sickness," they say.

PLoS Medicine

1) Moynihan R, Henry D (2006) The fight against disease mongering: Generating knowledge for action. PLoS Med 3(4): e191. 
2) Lexchin J (2006) Bigger and better: How Pfizer redefined erectile dysfunction. PLoS Med 3(4): e132. 
3) Phillips CB (2006) Medicine goes to school: Teachers as sickness brokers for ADHD. PLoS Med 3(4): e182. 
4) Tiefer L (2006) Female sexual dysfunction: A case study of disease mongering and activist resistance. PLoS Med 3(4): e178. 
5) Healy D (2006) The latest mania: Selling bipolar disorder. PLoS Med 3(4): e185. 
6) Applbaum K (2006) Pharmaceutical marketing and the invention of the medical consumer. PLoS Med 3(4): e189. 
7) Heath I (2006) Combating disease mongering: Daunting but nonetheless essential. PLoS Med 3(4): e146. 
8) Woloshin S, Schwartz LM (2006) Giving legs to restless legs: A case study of how the media helps make people sick. PLoS Med 3(4): e170. 
9) Maggini M, Vanacore N, Raschetti R (2006) Cholinesterase inhibitors: Drugs looking for a disease? PLoS Med 3(4): e140. 
10) Mintzes B (2006) Disease mongering in drug promotion: Do governments have a regulatory role? PLoS Med 3(4): e198. 
11) Kumar CJ, Deoker A, Kumar A, Kumar A, Hegde BM (2006) Awareness and attitudes about disease mongering among medical and pharmaceutical students. PLoS Med 3(4): e213. 

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The Corporate Sponsored Creation Of Disease - Disease Mongering

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