Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Just Can't Get Enough, I Just Can't Get It Up

No, this entry is not an announcement that David Gahan uses Viagra, but a pointer to a series of articles in PLoS Medicine on the phenomenon of "disease mongering." Some of the diseases mongered include ADHD, bipolar disorder, erectile dysfunction, and the particularly slippery diagnosis of female sexual dysfunction. Of course, many many people are legitimately diagnosed with these disorders and helped immensely by pharmaceutical treatments. However, advertising campaigns designed to expand the diagnostic categories broadly covered by a particular drug are the insidious new trend criticized by the PLoS Medicine authors.

In the words of Dr Petra (sex and relationship psychologist):
"If we take sexual functioning as an example, the pharmaceutical industry want us to see not having sex as a disease, since they’re working to find ‘cures’. They want their sex medications to be seen as lifestyle enhancers, and they want us to feel the need to take sex meds to boost our desire, increase our arousal, and improve our capacity for orgasm and sexual functioning. They use the media to whet our appetites with teaser stories about forthcoming sex products and to constantly remind us how we ought to be sexually functioning (so that when we don’t measure up we feel the need to reach for a cure). Many journalists I’ve spoken to interpret these stories as exciting new scientific breakthroughs -- they don’t even know often that they’re being spun a line.

The media has been at the forefront of promoting erectile enhancing drugs, clamouring for drugs to ‘cure’ premature ejaculation, female sexual dysfunction, and testosterone supplements for both sexes.

Until the media take a critical stance on the PR stories they’re sent from pharmaceutical companies (or academic departments funded by pharmaceutical companies) we’ll continue to have them offering free advertising to Big Pharma."

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