Don’t buy it

Evidence-based medicine has started to make a real impact in the past decade. Yet as we move towards more rational treatment in some areas, in others there is a trend in the opposite direction. Every year diseases new to science emerge – complete with the drugs to treat them. These are products of disease mongering.

It has long been a tactic of pharmaceutical companies to try to increase the number of people who can be prescribed their drugs. They argue for symptoms that are a little out of the ordinary, such as elevated blood pressure, to be redefined as diseases. They lobby for problems previously seen as social or cultural to be redefined as disorders that would benefit from drug therapy.

Thus our medicine cabinets are filling with the likes of antidepressants to treat “social anxiety” (shyness) and “premenstrual dysphoric dysfunction”, appetite suppressants, and stimulants to improve the education performance of children. Another disorder to receive attention from disease mongers is bipolar disorder, or manic-depression. This can be a debilitating condition, but the bar for diagnosing it has been lowered. Drugs once reserved for treating periods or mania are being prescribed for permanent use, and psychotropic drugs are now being dished out to Children diagnosed as bipolar.

One line of argument is that people are no longer patients but consumers: drugs for these complaints should be sold over the counter like groceries. That would be fine , except that some of them are very dangerous, do not work, or both. If caution demands that doctors continue to prescribe these drugs, then another problem follows: no country can afford an equitable health service while funding drugs companies’ every invention.

This will not be an easy problem to solve. Governments have let drug companies become the main educators of politicians, doctors and the public on many medical issues. Many people sitting on official advisory panels receive industry funding. Patient action groups, desperate for solutions and often with pharmaceutical company support, back treatment for which there is little or no scientific evidence. Determined patients may arrive at their doctors armed with dubious information gleamed online.

Some doctors may be eager to try trendy drug treatments, even if they have not been tested or approved for the disorder in question, or may find them the easiest way to placate a distressed patient.

At the centre of this tangled web are the pharmaceutical companies. For them, bending the will of politicians, doctors and the public may be a cheaper route to sales than inventing new drugs, but that is no excuse. Alongside the boardroom mantra of “increase shareholder dividend” should sit the medical dictum “do no harm”. Disease mongering is harming individuals and health services. It is a juggernaut that needs to be stopped.

Readers Response
Friday April 14, 2006

Just read the above titled article. Right now my brother’s wife has just come out of a near death situation. In December 2005 the doctors threw up their hands and told her she had 3 1/2 months to live. She had metastasized breast cancer. She had a partial mastectomy and then 8 months of chemotherapy. About a month ago she developed pneumonia and things were looking grim. The Hospice doctor told my brother she had about 2 days to live. She was in a hospital bed in my brother’s front room. She was now unconscious. A niece of ours had mentioned an alternative cancer treatment using Cesium compounds. John went to the net and had what he needed quickly. The first day after giving her about 4 grams orally with food (and supplemented Potassium) the three visible lumps over her sacrum, on one of her thoracic vertebrae and on her heel began to swell. Two days later those visible lumps had totally subsided. He continued the treatment for 17 days. Anyway, she is alive and recovering. My brother says the people that know about this treatment are extremely fearful of saying too much about it. Apparently many have been imprisoned for using the “C” word and cancer in the same sentence. An oncologist that my brother worked with asked my brother “If this cesium is so effective, then why don’t I know about it?” My brother answered “Who gives you money for research?” To which the doctor answered “The Pharmaceutical companies.” The long and short of it is there is no money to be made on something you cannot patent.

So, we think things are looking great, but are still hesitant to say she is free of cancer. The obvious implication to me is that this treatment is relatively side effect free (sometimes nausea and /or diahrea) and should be a front line (first before chemo) treatment. Thank God for the internet.

A loyal reader at Truthseeker,