Handy hints for getting along with your drug company

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

The myth of osteoporosis: blowing the whistle on the “epidemic”

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

Universal cholesterol screening for little kids?

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