“Selling sickness” means that the line between healthy and sick becomes blurred – and demand for medical treatment increases. If you’re a drug company, it’s a swell way to get consumers to demand treatment that may or may not even be necessary. So says a Dutch study that investigated industry-funded information campaigns around common conditions like restless legs syndrome, overactive bladder and heartburn.
These “ask your doctor” campaigns focused on symptom advertising or disease mongering.
Dutch law, as in Canada (but not, significantly, in only two countries: the U.S. and New Zealand) prohibits “Direct To Consumer” public advertising of prescription drugs. You might well wonder why these two countries are the only ones on earth who still permit this marketing practice. Continue reading →
Here we go again, says health journalism watchdog Gary Schwitzer of Health News Review, citing headlines that blare claims like “Coffee may reduce stroke risk!”
These media headlines introduced findings from a new study in which women who drank more than a cup of coffee a day had a 22% to 25% lower risk of stroke than those who drank less, according to Swedish researchers.
Their research was published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in North America, behind heart disease and cancer.
But Gary Schwitzer explains that although this was a big study (over 34,000 women ages 49-83, followed for an average of 10 years), it was only an observational study that can’t prove cause and effect. Continue reading →
According to a trio of widely published American researchers, many of us are “over-diagnosed” by being labelled with a medical condition that will never cause us any symptoms or premature death. We are, they tell us, mistakenly swallowing the popular conviction that early detection of everything is always for the best.
Their book, Over-diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, claims that over-diagnosis is in fact one of medicine’s biggest problems, causing millions of people to become patients unnecessarily, producing untold harm, and wasting vast amounts of resources in the name of disease mongering. Continue reading →
I really like reading the common sense essays of Pennsylvania physician Dr. Lucy Hornstein. She’s also the author of the book, Declarations of a Dinosaur: 10 Laws I’ve Learned as a Family Doctor. I like her writing mostly because I agree with almost everything she says. She’s brilliant, really. Last month, Dr. Lucy took aim at one of my own pet peeves: advertising for questionable health products that claim the benefits of such products are “clinically proven”.
For example, she picked on a radio ad for a colon cleanse product that helps remove the ‘five to ten pounds of waste some experts believe are spackled along the inside of the large intestine’:
“But ‘some experts‘ also believe the moon landing was a hoax, the Holocaust never happened, and homeopathy is effective medicine. Somehow this colon cleansing stuff helps you preferentially lose belly fat. Not really sure what belly fat has to do with five to ten pounds of stuff spackled inside your intestine. But they’re not selling logic. Call right now for your free sample. Or not. Continue reading →
I was thrilled when my other website, Heart Sisters, was recently awarded Health On The Net Code certification. The HONcode certifies trustworthy health information, and requires that health website publishers disclose all potential conflicts of interest, provide credentials for authors relaying medical information, and reference the source of the information presented.
This international certification program is funded by the Geneva Ministry of Health and the European Union. Celia Boyer, executive director of HON, explains:
“The HONcode is a way to improve the quality of information on the internet. Given the critical nature of health information and the unregulated environment of the internet, web surfers need all the help they can get.”
It’s a good system, but occasionally some groups either sugarcoat information or straight-out cheat. For example, some websites display the HONcode seal but have either never been accredited or have been long-since discredited. And that’s where Dr. Stephen Barrett comes in. According to Time magazine, the retired psychiatrist and editor of Quackwatch has organized a campaign to improve compliance with this code, particularly for questionable complementary and alternative medicine websites. Continue reading →
Looking for a luscious way to noodle away an hour this weekend? Check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest and theirIntegrity In Scienceconflict-of-interest project. But before you back away slowly for something more exciting like organizing the sock drawer, consider this: there is strong evidence that researchers’ financial ties to chemical, pharmaceutical, or tobacco manufacturers directly influence their published positions in supporting the benefit or downplaying the harm of the manufacturers’ product.
In other words, as a heart attack survivor whose doctor has prescribed a fistful of meds, I have no clue which of those drugs has been recommended based on flawed research or tainted journal papers that have essentially been bought and paid for by the drug company who made them. And, worse, neither do my doctors.
So to check who’s taking money from whom, you can now visit the Integrity in Science database and find out for yourself. Continue reading →