Drug firms 'inventing diseases'

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Stella, Apr 11, 2006.

  1. Stella macrumors 604

    Stella

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    #1
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4898488.stm


    --
    Notice:
    "Also, it is not right to say the industry invents diseases, we don't. It is up to doctors to decide what treatment to give people, we can't tell them."

    That they be the case but doctors et al are given incentives to use certain medicines... especially in the States.

    Very sleazy and very sad.

    Anyway, the story:

    Drug firms 'inventing diseases'

    Disease-mongering is putting people at risk, researchers say
    Pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs, researchers have warned.
    Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported.

    Researchers at Newcastle University in Australia said firms were putting healthy people at risk by medicalising conditions such as menopause.

    But the pharmaceutical industry denied it invented diseases.



    DISEASE-MONGERING
    Restless legs - Prevalence of rare condition exaggerated
    Irritable bowel syndrome - Promoted as a serious illness needing therapy, when usually a mild problem
    Menopause - Too often medicalised as a disorder when really a normal part of life

    Report authors David Henry and Ray Moynihan criticised attempts to convince the public in the US that 43% of women live with sexual dysfunction.

    They also said that risk factors like high cholesterol and osteoporosis were being presented as diseases - and rare conditions such as restless leg condition and mild problems of irritable bowel syndrome were exaggerated.

    The report said: "Disease-mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.

    Campaigns

    "It is exemplified mostly explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry-funded disease awareness campaigns - more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health."

    The researchers called on doctors, patients and support groups to be aware of the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and for more research into the way in which conditions are presented.

    They added: "The motives of health professionals and health advocacy groups may well be the welfare of patients, rather than any direct self-interested financial benefit, but we believe that too often marketers are able to crudely manipulate those motivations.

    "Disentangling the different motivations of the different actors in disease-mongering will be a key step towards a better understanding of this phenomenon."

    But Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the research was centred on the US where the drugs industry had much more freedom to promote their products to the public.

    "The way you can advertise is much more restricted in the UK so it is wrong to extrapolate it.

    "Also, it is not right to say the industry invents diseases, we don't. It is up to doctors to decide what treatment to give people, we can't tell them."
     
  2. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #2
    Huh? This is news? Hate to tell you, but many of us here in the US don't trust doctors too much, for the very reasons mentioned in this article. I've already told my doc no drugs for anything unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. Guess what? He never prescribes anything. Not even for my arthritis- that gets treated with good old-fashioned exercise.
     
  3. Stella thread starter macrumors 604

    Stella

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    #3
    Drug companies very often target the symptoms, not the cause... if they targeted the cause they will loose vast amounts of revenue.
     
  4. blackfox macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #4
    Upon reading the title of this thread I though it was going to be something more ominous...

    I am not sure what to say about this. Obviously, drug-companies are always looking at ways to make more money, regardless of it's relation to health. OTOH, doctors are trained to know medicine and take an oath to serve, so I would think they would/should be a barrier to the patient, answering questions and giving legitimate medical opinion.

    oh, so 43% of US women are sexually dysfunctional? Well, is this cross-referenced to how many are married?
     
  5. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #5
    Hmm- then I guess we just have to use our brains don't we? Americans are so bad at that. ;) Most just want a quick fix. Look at all the fad diets and such that claim instant results!
     
  6. cslewis macrumors 6502a

    cslewis

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    #6
    What about 'ED'?



    Is this a legit medical condition?
     
  7. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #7
    ha!
     
  8. Stella thread starter macrumors 604

    Stella

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    #8
    A lot of research papers that appear in medical journals have been sponsored by Drug companies, so these are not unbiased.

    Doctors etc read these journals and base their opinions on them.. so its not directly their fault - they get the 'facts' that are presented in respected Medical journals.

     
  9. Danksi macrumors 68000

    Danksi

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    #9
    A lot of Doctor's don't know much more than to prescribe drugs these days. A number of Dietary issues are caused by years of too much Sugar and Wheat in our diets - this is then treated by drugs, which cost a fortune, or even worse surgery, which is then treated by even more drugs.

    A lot of the time a simple change in diet and/or active lifestyle makes a huge difference (and much much cheaper).
     
  10. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #10
    I would go so far as to say most of the time that's the case.
     
  11. dornoforpyros macrumors 68040

    dornoforpyros

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    #11
    Restless legs

    haha I remember seeing a commercial for treatment of this "ailment" and I was "umm, is this for real?"
     
  12. SharksFan22 macrumors regular

    SharksFan22

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    #12
    Gotta agree. People have been conditioned to take a pill or see the doctor at the slightest amount of discomfort. One of the ones that really frustrates me is the whole Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I have a cousin that is unlike his three siblings in that he's very energetic, exciting and outgoing -- his parents put him on Ritalin to cure his alleged ADD and the kid is miserable. I know, I know, it's a sample size of one, but still makes me mad. I told his mother (my aunt) that maybe if she spent more time parenting and teaching him how to properly behave and when it's OK to act like a crazy little kid she wouldn't have to put him on meds -- yeah, she didn't take that too well. :D
     
  13. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #13
    As a Dr (PhD) I'd like to add in on this. In every journal article there is a strict process to publication. You must submit your paper before it goes through an anonymous, peer-review process. It gets gone over with a fine tooth comb and rejected or accepted based on the merit. You'll not find any scientists or doctors worth their salt who'll base their opinion and treatments on the finding of a single paper. It isn't until a finding has been verified in an independent laboratory that it is given much weight. Sure some papers slip through the process, but if they are big impact, they'll almost certainly be shot down when verification takes place.

    Finallly as a footnote to any peer-reviewed publication it is necessary to disclose any conflicting interests as well as the source of funding. Not doing so can lead to retraction of the publication - this and a blight on any scientific record and can lead to significant career problems - attaining funding, maintaining ties with universities or institutes, or getting publications accepted. When reading a paper this is one of the first things to look at along with the country the work was done and the identity of the authors. A good scientific rep amongst peers is a long hard thing to attain.

    Instead of worrying about drug companies inventing diseases a more worrying practice is companies suppressing cures. The old addage is that treatment is far more profitable than cure is unfortunately one that is very true. There is also an arbitrary mark that a company won't bother researching and marketing a product (I think it is $100M dollars off the top of my head) - sucks if you have a rare form of cancer or genetic disease....
     
  14. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #14

    Sorry to rain on your parade but blah, blah, blah. There have been enough scandals over the last few decades clearly showing that there are a lot of unethical doctors, researchers, drug companies and medical journals.

    I agree that too much is spent on mainstream diseases and not enough on research for the sake of research which in many cases could provide a cure. There also comes a point though, and I'm not just playing the devil's advocate, where treating every disease is simply not feasible.
     
  15. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #15
    You're not raining on my parade Ugg - you're trolling. How about at least being civil in your reply?

    Yes but my point was who has highlighted the scandals? Most commonly it is researchers independent of the company dollars who have tried to verify the data and found anomalies with conclusions etc. In other cases it's scientists with a conscience who blow the whistle on data they aren't comfortable with. Usually blatant misinterpretation is picked up by peer review. In the rare cases that fraud is involved the peer review system often isn't able to pick it. In these cases it's unfortunately up to the successive laboratories to corroborate the findings - which can take years. The current method certainly isn't failsafe but it's worked for a long time and resulted in hundreds of thousands of breakthroughs which you'd most probably not be alive without.

    Anyway I was just trying to bring a little info into the thread with my post. I just wanted to point out that it's not easy to get data published in journals - usually the process is long and hard and involves a lot of check points both during and after. And you certainly have a very good idea where funding is coming from to finance specific research - there's no guess work to it. People outside the field probably wouldn't understand this or the ramifications of having a paper retracted on one's career.

    How about backing that up with an example of a disease that you don't think we should bother curing? And add to that pot how about an example of medical research that you think is not worth the effort?
     
  16. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #16
    There's more than enough blame to go around. Unethical Doc's, greedy drug companies, lazy, idiot consumers (I have a headache. Where are my pills? I feel fat. Where are my pills? I'm sad. Where are my pills?). There are enough jerks in each of those categories to screw things up for everyone else.


    Lethal
     
  17. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #17
    Perfectly put Lethal. Medical Research is probably got more than it's fair share of unethical profiteers - there's so much money to be had when it comes to health. The behemoth alternative medicine market is a perfect example.
     
  18. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #18

    Nah, I'm not trolling, just pointing out that the system is not failsafe even with the checks and balances built into it.

    Let's say a disease affects 400 people during a decade. It goes without saying that these people live in a country where either have good insurance or can pay for the medicine or treatment themselves. If it costs, $200,000,000 to come up with a cure, are we willing to spend $500,000 per person? Should we spend that sum of money when many people especially in those same western countries, go without basic medical care?

    It's all fine and dandy to want to cure all the diseases in the world but let's face it, our living standards would drop substantially if we were to do so. Something tells me economics at some point need to be taken into account.

    I have a substantial hearing loss. Research has recently found the gene that controls the growth of the hair cells in the cochlea. So far it's only been tried out on mice but there's hope that within the next couple of decades it could be applied to humans as well. Needless to say, I'm all for continued funding of this research. But, the application of this research would help millions of people, especially since we in the west are living much longer and being exposed to excessive amounts of noise during our lifetimes.

    Economies of scale need to be applied to medical care and research just as they are appled to the rest of our lives. i would never ban research into any particular area but we've learned over time that research gets less expensive because it's built upon past research and increased use of technology. That's why I think research for the sake of research is so valuable.

    20 years down the road, the cure for the above hypothetical disease may cost 1/10 as much and would therefore be affordable. It's crazy to think that all diseases must have a cure immediately.
     
  19. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #19
    Cool Ugg :). I can see where you're coming from but arguing economics with medical research is fairly disingenious and kind of myopic. It completely ignores one of the basis tenents of scientific research. Lets take your example the rare disease affecting 400 per decade. To a scientist such as myself I'd almost wet myself looking at something like that. Sure the economies of scale to treat that specific disease make it unfeasable. But that disease, manifest by a gene mutation, exposure to a cytotoxic chemical, or perhaps mechanical damage could have enormous ramifications on other pathology associated with that or other organs that share molecular characteristics.

    Take you cilia for example. By studying your disease and teh underlying events, not only would we come closer to a treatment - we'd also get a fantastic idea about normal development and where pathways go wrong in congenital malformations. We could also extrapolate that research to other fields where cilia might be malfunctioning such as oesophageal pathology (i.e. emphysema), embryo deformaties, fertility, cystic fibrosis, malignancy etc etc.

    In fact we can attribute the majority of our knowledge of normal development and organ function to mutants such as yourself ;).
     
  20. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #20
    Aw, shucks, I'll take that as a compliment!

    I see your point, I really do, but in the end where does research money come from? Here in the US, I believe the majority of drug research is done at the university level and is funded by the federal government. Once the universities find something is when the drug companies take over, I don't think the drug companies themselves fund a lot of raw research. So, that means that research and medical care for that matter, have to share the table with all the other federal "needs". In the end that results in cost containment and only the best and most productive universities receive funding. IOW, not all diseases are going to receive the same amount of attention and the drug companies are going to limit that further by continuing research on only those drugs that will be most profitable.

    Another further limitation is the amount of scientists available to do the research. As you say, research builds upon previous findings and the internet has certainly sped that process up but in the end it can only go so fast. It's not simply a matter of economics.
     
  21. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #21
    It was a compliment :)! You're samples are very valuable Ugg. If you're ever asked to take part in a research project make sure it's publically funded and carried out in a public institution ;)!

    As for funding you are right. The majority does come from the government. The US government is actually a lot better than in Aus (about 10:1 per capita) although neither adjust the amounts with inflation so it's a constant battle for funding. To gain a grant you need to be able to demonstrate an attractive hypothesis, a track record of publications in the field, ethics approval, the appropriate facilities, and access to the patients/reagents required. Again it's determined by peer review - as long as you can clearly explain the potential impact of your research you can study anything you like. Bees, jellybeans, songbirds etc. But you're probably one of fifteen competing for a single grant. It's survival of the fittest at it's best and the attrition is quite high - hence the majority of junior research scientists spend their careers (usually up until aged in our mid 30's to 40's) on one year contracts. Our bosses can't guarrantee money for longer than that. Sucks for loans :(.

    Another source of funding is non-profit organisations (i.e. charities), community groups, fundrainsing, and bequests. This can add up quite a bit. My current institute is predominantly funded through in house fundraising. However we target diabetes and heart disease which are quite common and therefore a lot of money is donated. People also have very deep pockets for childrens diseases - especially cancer.

    And then of course there's industry partnerships which are a secure source of money and one of the only ways you can ensure your research reaches the market. The cost of the necessary clinical trials for FDA approval (and patent applications) are usually well beyond the means of all researchers. It's a matter of millions of dollars to get even the most pedestrian pharmaceutical to market. Lately there's also been a bit of a boom in biotech start-ups - there's a lot of money from investers keen to ride the bext boom.

    As for your last point I think there's probably too many researchers at present :). Competition at the funding level is so hard that a lot get turned off - many don't achieve that serendipitous finding that can launch their career. I've seen some amazingly intelligent people leave who leave because it's not worth the worry where their, or their staff's funding is going to come from. Thus the efflux into Journalism, patent law, business, and teaching is massive.
     

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