Medicine & Science

Selling Sickness. How Drug Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients

Allen & Unwin, 2005

Over three decades ago the maverick thinker Ivan Illich warned that an expanding medical establishment was medicalising life itself, undermining the human capacity to cope with the reality of suffering and death, and making too many well people into patients. He criticised a medical system “that claims authority over people who are not yet ill, people who cannot reasonably expect to get well, and those for whom doctors have no more effective treatment than that which could be offered by their uncles or aunts” (2).

A decade ago medical writer Lynn Payer described the process she called disease-mongering, in which doctors and drug companies unnecessarily widened the boundaries of illness to recruit more patients and sell more drugs (3). Her writings have become ever more relevant as the industry’s marketing roar becomes louder and its grip on the healthcare system much stronger. [Source » US: selling to the worried well … Ray Moynihan / Alan Cassels ]

How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers are Making You Feel Sick

Disease-Mongers: Lynn Payer, 1992

Lynn Payer, formerly chief medical correspondent for the International Herald Tribune and health editor for the New York Times, is arguing in this book that far too many doctors, as well as drug companies and insurers, are bilking the public, frightening people with ineffective tests, and concentrating too much on benign conditions.

The book's thesis is compelling: doctors, drug companies, and device manufacturers are engaged in "broadening the definitions of diseases" in order to increase demand for their products and services. Since the book was first published in 1992, the evidence has mounted that Payer's view of the medical establishment is all too accurate.

The epidemiological data (or lack of data), is reviewed in order to find a basis for some common health recommendations, practices and beliefs. The breast cancer screening advice for women under age 50 is to receive a physical examination and a mammogram every 2 years. However, research studies show that women who underwent regular screenings did not fare much better against breast cancer than those who were not screened. Nonetheless, physicians support the recommendation and manufacturers promote their mammogram machines as profit-making ventures. Even worse for the individual, mammograms detect noncancerous abnormalities that must be checked out, they cause anguish and unnecessary surgical expenses – and thus mammograms provide a source of income one way or the other.

» The pharmaceutical industry has a dream: at least one disease (and more than one prescription drug) for every American - Stan Cox