The corporate sponsored creation of disease - Press Release from PLoS Medicine

The corporate sponsored creation of disease--"disease mongering"--turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources, and causes iatrogenic harm, say the guest editors of a special issue of PLoS Medicine devoted to how drug companies sell sickness.

In the opening essay, the guest editors, Australian journalist Ray Moynihan and clinical pharmacologist David Henry (Newcastle University, Australia), define disease mongering as "the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments."

New diseases are being defined, they say, by panels of specialists who are often funded by industry. Such diseases are then promoted by industry-sponsored "disease-awareness campaigns," usually designed to sell drugs rather than inform the public about preventing illness or maintaining health.

Eleven articles in the special issue, published to coincide with an international conference at Newcastle University on 11-13 April 2006 (www.diseasemongering.org), describe different forms of disease mongering:

  • Aspects of ordinary life, such as sexuality, are being medicalized and turned into illnesses. Joel Lexchin (University of Toronto) argues that Pfizer marketed Viagra not just for treating erectile dysfunction due to medical problems like diabetes, but as a drug that "normal" men could use to enhance their potency.
  • Mild problems, such as everyday irritability in children, are portrayed as serious illnesses needing powerful drugs. David Healy (University of Wales) looks at how companies are "selling" bipolar disorder, leading to a surge of diagnoses of bipolar disorder in American children, some as young as two. "Drugs such as Zyprexa and Risperdal are now being used for preschoolers in America with little questioning of this development," he says.
  • Health problems are routinely being framed as extremely common. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz (Dartmouth Medical School) analyze the news coverage of a little-known condition called "restless legs syndrome," a compelling urge to move one's legs. The authors found that the media exaggerated the prevalence of the condition and the need for treatment, and failed to consider the problems of over-diagnosis.

A recent Reuters Business Insight report on so-called lifestyle drugs stated starkly: "the coming years will bear greater witness to the corporate sponsored creation of disease". The special issue, say Moynihan and Henry, is a call for the global health community to challenge this trend. Several articles outline steps that doctors, patients, governments, and the media can take to respond to disease mongering.

"Around the world, there are tentative steps to identify, understand, and combat the threat to human health from the corporate-sponsored selling of sickness," they say. "We trust this theme issue may support and augment these developments."

###

PLEASE MENTION THE OPEN-ACCESS JOURNAL PLoS MEDICINE (www.plosmedicine.org) AS THE SOURCE FOR THESE ARTICLES AND PROVIDE A LINK TO THE FREELY-AVAILABLE TEXT. THANK YOU.

All works published in PLoS Medicine are open access. Everything is immediately available without cost to anyone, anywhere--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use--subject only to the condition that the original authorship is properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.

TO CONTACT THE GUEST EDITORS OF THE SPECIAL ISSUE:

Ray Moynihan, Journalist and Author, Byron Bay, Australia
Tel: +61 425274836
Email: ray.moynihan@newcastle.edu.au

David Henry, University of Newcastle
Email: David.Henry@newcastle.edu.au

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE SPECIAL ISSUE IN ONLINE
VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://collections.plos.org/diseasemongering-2006.php

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE SPECIAL ISSUE*: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-03-04-diseasemongering.pdf

*The size of the pdf file is ~20MB. Please allow a few minutes to access the issue.

RELATED COVER ART FOR PRESS USE: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-03-04-cover.jpg
-If you reproduce the cover art, please credit the image to Marie T. Dauenheimer.

Table of Contents:

1) Moynihan R, Henry D (2006) The fight against disease mongering: Generating knowledge for action. PLoS Med 3(4): e191.
Contact: Ray Moynihan, email: ray.moynihan@newcastle.edu.au
2) Lexchin J (2006) Bigger and better: How Pfizer redefined erectile dysfunction. PLoS Med 3(4): e132.
Contact: Joel Lexchin, email: jlexchin@yorku.ca
3) Phillips CB (2006) Medicine goes to school: Teachers as sickness brokers for ADHD. PLoS Med 3(4): e182.
Contact: Christine B. Phillips, email: christine.phillips@calvary-act.com.au
4) Tiefer L (2006) Female sexual dysfunction: A case study of disease mongering and activist resistance. PLoS Med 3(4): e178.
Contact: Leonore Tiefer, email: ltiefer@mindspring.com
5) Healy D (2006) The latest mania: Selling bipolar disorder. PLoS Med 3(4): e185.
Contact: David Healy, email: Healy_Hergest@compuserve.com
6) Applbaum K (2006) Pharmaceutical marketing and the invention of the medical consumer. PLoS Med 3(4): e189.
Contact: Kalman Applbaum, email: applbaum@uwm.edu
7) Heath I (2006) Combating disease mongering: Daunting but nonetheless essential. PLoS Med 3(4): e146.
Contact: Iona Heath, email: iona.heath@dsl.pipex.com
8) Woloshin S, Schwartz LM (2006) Giving legs to restless legs: A case study of how the media helps make people sick. PLoS Med 3(4): e170.
Contact: Steven Woloshin, email: steven.woloshin@dartmouth.edu
9) Maggini M, Vanacore N, Raschetti R (2006) Cholinesterase inhibitors: Drugs looking for a disease? PLoS Med 3(4): e140.
Contact: Marina Maggini, email: mmaggini@iss.it
10) Mintzes B (2006) Disease mongering in drug promotion: Do governments have a regulatory role? PLoS Med 3(4): e198.
Contact: Barbara Mintzes, email: bmintzes@chspr.ubc.ca
11) Kumar CJ, Deoker A, Kumar A, Kumar A, Hegde BM (2006) Awareness and attitudes about disease mongering among medical and pharmaceutical students. PLoS Med 3(4): e213.
Contact: C. Jairaj Kumar, email: jairaj81in@yahoo.co.in

About PLoS Medicine
PLoS Medicine is an open access, freely available international medical journal. It publishes original research that enhances our understanding of human health and disease, together with commentary and analysis of important global health issues. For more information, visit http://www.plosmedicine.org

About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

I have not failed 10,000 times. I found 10,000 ways that won't work.
~ Thomas Edison