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The medicalisation of life: drugs and more drugs!

With their "disease information campaigns", pharmaceutical companies have just one aim, and that is to increase their drug sales. Even if it means exaggerating the seriousness of illnesses or going so far as to "invent" new ones.

Unable to offer any new drugs that show tangible therapeutic advantages for patients, pharmaceutical companies are using every trick in the book to hold on to their existing markets and to open up new ones. With their "compliance support programmes", which they are trying to have legalised in France, the drug companies intend to help patients swallow their long-term treatment right down to the last spoonful! With disease information campaigns, pharmaceutical companies sometimes completely manufacture illnesses, often out of benign disorders. This convinces countless people that they are ill and need to consume drugs. Very often, the symptoms do exist, but the media hype created around them by pharmaceutical companies and those who stand to gain, tends to exaggerate the frequency, severity and consequences of these disorders.

All this is leading to a medicalisation of life, which is all the more serious when the drugs concerned have no tangible effect or cause severe adverse effects.

One example is the poor benefit-harm balance of drugs used to treat "post-traumatic stress disorder" or "restless leg syndrome".

Society must not allow pharmaceutical companies to create artificial needs or to promote inappropriate solutions to real problems. Nor must we allow prescription drugs to be covertly advertised to consumers under the guise of "compliance support" or "disease information" programmes. ©Prescrire November 2006

Source: "Artifices" Rev Prescrire 2006 ; 26 (277) : 724.

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