The medicalization of everyday life

bad science coverDr.  Ben Goldacre, a British doctor writing in his weekly Bad Science column in The Guardian last fall, told this disturbing cautionary tale:

“In 2007, the British Medical Journal published a large, well-conducted, randomised controlled trial, performed at lots of different locations, run by publicly-funded scientists.  It delivered a strikingly positive result.  It showed that one treatment could significantly improve children’s anti-social behaviour. The treatment was entirely safe, and the study was even accompanied by a very compelling cost-effectiveness analysis.

“But did this story get reported as front page news? Was it followed up on the health pages, with an accompanying photo feature, describing one child’s miraculous recovery, and an interview with an attractive happy mother with whom we could all identify?  Continue reading

There’s a pill for that!

No matter what ails you, there’s a pill for it. And if nothing ails you, just wait. Pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs right now that just need a disease to treat. So let’s invent one!  It’s what Big Pharma watchers call disease-mongering. For example, we used to call it laziness, but now we know that it’s really a medical condition called Motivational Deficiency Disorder. And don’t even get me started on Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder!

Need to take a pill for something, anything? We’ve got drugs for everything.

The term ‘disease-mongering’ was first coined by author Lynn Payer in the 1992 book Disease Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick. Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath and David Henry then wrote this in April of that same year in the British Medical Journal:

“Pharmaceutical companies sponsor diseases and promote them to both prescribers and consumers.

“There’s a lot of money to be made from telling healthy people they’re sick. 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.

“The social construction of illness is being replaced by the corporate construction of disease.” Continue reading

Doctors on the take: how to read the fine print in medical research reports

food nutsI was doing a little light reading in the Archives of Internal Medicine the other day. A study reported there in June looked at what researchers have inaccurately dubbed the Eco-Atkins Diet, which they claim replaces the low-carb, dangerously high-saturated fat meat protein of the old Atkins Diet with low-carb, low saturated fat vegetable-based protein such as soybeans, legumes and nuts.

The more I read, the better I liked what I was reading. The study showed that the vegetable-based protein-eating participants not only successfully lost weight on this new Eco-Atkins Diet, but they showed greater reductions in their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels than the control group.

Isn’t this fabulous news for those of us wanting to lose weight as well as improve our heart health? Well, maybe not.   Continue reading