Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels. 2005. Selling Sickness. How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients.
As endless growth comes to a halt from peaking resources and a corrupt financial system, health care costs may skyrocket to the point where only the wealthy can afford them, so it’s critical you do all you can to stay healthy.
Getting healthy people to buy drugs they don’t need, that don’t cure what they don’t have with potentially bad to fatal side effects, sounds like such a crazy premise that even Hollywood wouldn’t buy.
Yet that’s just what’s happened, as Moynihan and Cassels document in their book “Selling Sickness”. The 500 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry has plenty of money to convince us that our ordinary travails mask disease and mental illness.
Americans are only 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 50% of prescription drugs.
Millions of healthy people have asked their doctor about that purple pill they saw on TV, or taken drugs pushed by an army of 80,000 drug salesmen who’ve influenced your doctor with all sorts of free gifts.
Many people now take drugs that may have harmful side effects, or drugs that won’t improve their health much if at all. Or even harm it: Hormone replacement therapy turned out to increase the chance of heart attacks, a cholesterol lowering drug caused deaths.
The FDA isn’t looking out for you either, as is shown in the chapter on irritable bowel syndrome. The FDA let the drug Lotronex remain far too long on the market, despite evidence coming in from doctors that it was killing, hospitalizing, and causing complications never seen before by doctors treating this syndrome.
How has the pharmaceutical industry pulled this off?
1) The point where you “need” to take a particular drug is continually lowered (i.e. for cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc), often far lower than necessary. Many of the doctors setting these lower standards have financial ties to the drug companies, so when more drugs are sold to more people, they stand to profit. Every time the good cholesterol level is lowered, millions of new customers are created overnight.
2) New diseases are invented that don’t really exist. Menopause, for example, is a natural part of the life cycle. It’s doubtful that attention deficit disorder and other “diseases” in the book exist.
3) Pharmaceutical companies exaggerate the good the drug will do for you. Brittle bones are only 13% of the problem in osteoporosis, which tends to affect people the last chapter of their life. Far more important is: don’t fall! Be sure you’ve got good eyeglasses; your rugs won’t slip, exercise, and so on.
4) You’ll never see ads telling you the one thing you need to know: if you want to lead a healthy life, eat a good diet and exercise. But you will see all sorts of deceptive ads, which this book does a good job of describing. You’ll be angry and sometimes shocked when you see the dirty tricks used to promote drugs.
There are people who stand to benefit from drugs, the book is definitely not saying they’re totally useless. And many of the people who would benefit from drugs aren’t getting them.
But before you decide to take a drug, be sure to do research first to make sure you really need it. Read this book if you have one of the following:
depression, high cholesterol, menopause, attention deficit disorder, high blood pressure, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social anxiety disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction.
The final chapter is worth reading too, it discusses what we can do about these issues.