Saturday, December 31, 2011

Disease Mongering At Its Best

What is disease mongering?
"Disease mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments. It is exemplified most explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry-funded disease-awareness campaigns — more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health."
- The Fight against Disease Mongering: Generating Knowledge for Action, PLoSMedicine, 2006
Drug companies profit from giving names to conditions for which they want to sell drugs, conditions that don't necessarily warrant drugs.

Here's a drug being sold for ES and SWD. I've never heard of ES and SWD, have you?

ES: Excessive Sleepiness
SWD: Shift Work Disorder

Nuvigil's website offers a free prescription. Nice, since a 90-day supply costs $1238.94 (at Having insurance cover the cost for these drugs raises the price of insurance for everyone.

What acronyms will they think of next?


Steve Parker, M.D. said...

They thought up this one about a decade ago: PMDD

Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder.

Yep, there's a drug for that.


Angela and Melinda said...

I've observed this on my own. It started when they legalized commercial advertising of prescription drugs (imo), a practice I find downright evil.

Angela and Melinda said...

And to use Christmas as the "hook" to draw people into the message of the ad. Some people have NO scruples.

Bix said...

The Christmas hook ... you took the words right out of my mouth.

Bix said...

Steve, it must be exasperating having people come in with these ads.

virginia said...

and in one of my sister's nursing classes, the instructor mocked these acronyms/treatments. she asked if anyone had heard of SRH, and everyone shuffled through their notes for a clue. at the reveal, students were uncertain if it was okay to laugh.

(short for Sp*rm Retention Headache)

i hope it was a joke, because i laughed.

even so, hormone shifts can make life unbearable.

RB said...

It is amazing how many commercials are on TV for prescription drugs. I learned about a lot of dubious new diseases from these ads. There are also drugs for real diseases like the new drug Uloric for gout. The commercial implies Uloric is the only way to treat gout. Gout of course has many treatments including diet which the drug makers don't want us to know about.

But I like these drug commercial. About half of each commercial is someone talking really fast about all the nasty side affects. This motivates me to eat right and exercise to stay healthy so I don't have to end up taking any these drugs.

Bix said...

omg ... I laugh when I hear them rushing through all the side effects! We treat side effects as no big deal. A little nausea, no big deal. A little muscle weakness, no big deal. Elevated liver enzymes, no big deal.

I had to take a class in Traditional Chinese Medicine in grad school. I was floored when I learned that good practitioners had zero tolerance for side effects! If a patient was experiencing unwanted undesirable effects from a treatment, it was stopped in favor of another.

Bix said...

"The commercial implies Uloric is the only way to treat gout."

Yes! I've even heard, regarding diabetes, "when diet and exercise don't work... it's time to talk to your doctor about insulin." Ack! I would do anything and everything I could with diet and exercise and lifestyle (smoking, rest, stress, etc.) before injecting insulin. It's not without a downside. First off, forget losing weight if you need to, it's very hard while you're taking insulin. You'll probably gain weight. There's the suspected link to cancer too.

Bix said...

I think one reason disease mongering works is that it plays on peoples' desire to feel special. That they are indeed afflicted, and that see?, there's even a name for it, a name so medically intricate that it's often communicated by an acronym. Like GERD.

Bix said...

Wait, I have one more analogy...

Someone hits your thumb with a hammer every day. You go to the doc who says you have Sore Thumb Disease (STD). And you'll always have it, but here's a drug for it.

Ronald said...

Really, Sore Thumb Disease. I went to the doctor with a STD and it wasn't my thumb that was hurting.

Angela and Melinda said...

That Uloric ad is revolting. Slosh, slosh, and when you're done, you can fit the bottle in your briefcase. For crying out loud!

Angela and Melinda said...

One of the possible side effects in the speed-reading list of many of the drugs is DEATH.