Pity the poor pharmaceutical industry, much maligned by those concerned about marketing-based medicine. Ray Moynihan is one of the most vocal watchdogs of the industry. He’s the Australia-based co-author with Alan Cassels of a compelling book called Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients.
His work on disease-mongering has intrigued me for years, and now he offers these handy hints for physicians on how to get along with your friendly neighbourhood drug or medical device company. These hints are in response to a British guideline for physicians written by a multinational stakeholder group, including the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). Neither the group’s membership nor funding is declared in the guidelines or on the ABPI website.
Here’s Moynihan’s cheeky advice* in the British Medical Journal for doctors who are reading this guidance: Continue reading →
When Dr. Victoria Seewaldt of Duke University School of Medicine reviewed a controversial new book about osteoporosis in the Journal of the American Medical Association* in 2005, she started off as an admitted skeptic. The review was for Gillian Sanson‘s book, The Myth of Osteoporosis: What Every Woman Should Know About Creating Bone Health. The book’s premise challenged almost every truism that most doctors believed – and may still believe – about osteoporosis.
Dr. Seewaldt is not only a physician, but also the daughter of an osteoporosis patient; her mother was diagnosed after fracturing a hip at age 72. She explained:
“Until her hip fracture, my mother was a ferocious shopper. Even in her early 70s, my mother would race down Fifth Avenue in New York City, shopping bags in hand, leaving me out of breath and begging for a rest.
“Then one day, my mother fractured her hip. Suddenly, our lives changed. For this reason, l initially approached Gillian Sanson’s book with significant reservations.”
But by the end of this book, Dr. Seewaldt found that her “reservations had turned to enthusiasm”. Continue reading →
November 11, 2011 was a happy day for Big Pharma. That’s the day when The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued new guidelines recommending that every child’s first cholesterol check should occur before the kid hits puberty, between the age of 9-11. As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, the guidelines also come amid broad concern about growing numbers of children who are overweight or obese (as about 17% of the little darlings are, triple the level from three decades ago).
These children, say those who wrote these guidelines, are thus potentially on course for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious health problems as adults.
With all due respect to the very smart doctors who came up with what amounts to a resounding high-five victory for marketing-based medicine, I feel compelled to ask:
“What were you thinking?”
Even though the new guidelines contain a mandatory cautionary note (“Drugs? What drugs?”) the corporate pharmaceutical windfall that’s implicit in them is worth celebrating if you happen to own stock in Big Pharma. Continue reading →
Allergan’s Latisse is an eyelash-growing drug prescribed to treat a condition called hypotrichosis. This is a condition of no hair growth (not to be confused with the condition of alopecia, which describes hair loss where formerly there was hair growth). That’s not how Allergan chose to describe the condition of hypotrichosis on its Latisse Patient Information sheet:
“Hypotrichosis is another name for having inadequate or not enough eyelashes.”
But as John Mack astutely notes in Pharma Marketing News:
“I imagine asking a woman if she has ‘adequate’ or ‘enough’ eyelashes is like asking a man if he has a ‘big’ enough or ‘hard’ enough penis. It is unlikely, therefore, that any woman wouldn’t want to try Latisse at least once.”
How then to get more women to ask more doctors to help sell more of this eyelash-growing drug? Hire a famous person to pitch your product! Enter professional celebrity-for-hire (Volkswagen-Ford-Coppertone-LaZBoy-Colgate-Tupperware) Brooke Shields, who explains on her Latisse video diary how she also became a paid shill for this Allergan drug: ,Continue reading →
In essence, Dr. Allen Frances is the guy who wrote the book on mental illness. As editor of the 4th edition of the psychiatric reference book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (universally known as the DSM-IV), he now makes this grim admission about what’s been called the “bible” of the psychiatric profession:“We made mistakes that had terrible consequences.” Continue reading →
Something strange is happening in medicine, according to physician, bioethicist and author Dr. Carl Elliott in his landmark article in The Guardian called Is Ugliness a Disease? No longer, he claims, is medicine being used merely to cure illness. “Medicine is now being used in the pursuit of happiness. We take Viagra at bedtime and Ritalin before work. We inject Botox into our wrinkled brows and rub Rogaine on our balding heads. We swallow Paxil for shyness, Prozac for grief, and Buspar for anxiety.
“For stage fright we use beta blockers; for excessive blushing and sweating, we get endoscopic surgery. We ask surgeons to trim down our noses and suck fat from our thighs in the pursuit of what we believe to be our true selves. Continue reading →