Disease-mongering by the Washington Post: here we go again

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There are WMD’s lurking inside your body. And you better find them ASAP.

In its health section today, the Washington Post gives men of all ages screening test advice – much of it not grounded in the best medical evidence or at least not reflecting real controversies in health care.

They do one of those “What To Do In Your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s…” columns that news organizations find so appealing and that I find so incomplete.

Sanjay Gupta and CNN have done the same thing

So has the Star Tribune and many other news organizations.

Among the questionable advisories from the Post:

• Telling men in their 30s to “sign up for complete physicals”
• Telling men in their 40s to get a complete physical every two years

There was no mention of the controversies surrounding such recommendations - some experts calling it wasteful.

• Telling men in their 40s to start skin cancer screening.

Aren’t they aware that the US Preventive Services Task Force just last week stated :

“ the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of
benefits and harms of using a whole-body skin examination by a
primary care clinician or patient skin self-examination for the
early detection of cutaneous melanoma, basal cell cancer, or
squamous cell skin cancer in the adult general population.” ???

They go on to tell men in their 50s to have prostate cancer screening. (They do say the pros and cons should be discussed, but the recommendation for such screening stands nonetheless.)

Again, the USPSTF states: “the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years.”

What the Post promotes may be one doctor’s – or some doctors’ - opinion(s). But for a major newspaper to state these as if they were handed to Moses on stone tablets is wrong. There are uncertainties. There is controversy. Screening tests can cause harm - not just benefit. And good journalism should reflect that.

2 Comments

With the current trend toward a more nationalized health system in the USA, do you think the media/government complex will promote more of this sort of thing in the future, or do you think there will be a backlash in the form of excessive demand for unnecessary services that bog the health system down?

This Makes Me Sick

When I was a child, I heard the phrase 'war-monger', I had to find out its definition, as I had no idea what that phrase meant. I knew others could, and were, labeled with this phrase, as I had heard it in the past directed at others whoever said these two words. So I felt a need to know what these words meant, and how they affected others who heard them.

Finally, I found the answer: a warmonger is one who promotes war, which is undesirable or discreditable. In this case, one labeled this would have an affinity for what others are reasonably opposed to share the same views:

Others promote other things besides war.

Disease mongering is when a large pharmaceutical corporation implements various unethical if not illegal activities in order to sell more of their products by either creating or expanding a particular illness. They do this by creating the perception that others are likely ill in some way when, in fact, they are not.

Drug companies do this by seeking more of those who should be patients in need of treatment with the drug maker's promoted medications, regardless if they are in need of such treatment or not, clinically.

How this is done by these companies will be described soon.

The drug makers clearly place the needs for their drugs to be for medical conditions whose treatment regimens are to be viewed by others as incomplete or unmet. The companies want to let the public know of the progressive increase for the disease states and how their products treat this illness better than what is available now or has been used in the past. How ironic it seems that drug companies, who make drugs to delay the progression of, or cure diseases with these drugs, wish for others to become as sick as possible to profit from their suffering that they create with disease mongering and sell more pills.

This disease-mongering in fact does occur often to widen the diagnostic boundaries of an illness, disorder, or syndrome by creating awareness of such medical conditions to the public. The drug companies do this by utilizing in several ways the delivery of fabricated if not baseless information during this process.

Usually, the pharmaceutical either creates or expands a disease state by deception directly to consumers, often. Then the consumer, who now believes that they are ill, go see their health care provider. The health care provider, due largely to the unfamiliarity of the patient’s symptoms expressed by the patient, if not the drug the patient is requesting, usually writes a prescription for the drug requested by the patient.

First, let's take a look at this label of disease mongering. It is inappropriate in that, unlike diseases and illnesses, mongering occurs with medical disorders and syndromes as well.

It is accurate and factual, however, that disease mongering does happen with deliberate intent and reckless disregard for the well-being of others by drug companies.

There was a book written by Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels called, "Selling Sickness" in 2005. The book thoroughly described how big pharmaceutical corporations are turning all of us into patients, and into a over-medicated society.

Disease mongering progressively continues to create patients with illnesses, disorders, or syndromes that in fact may not exist without any intervention to discontinue this behavior.

What the drug company implements to make sure this happens includes the following:

1. Paying medical journals to publish fabricated clinical trials involving their promoted medications after paying those involved with such a clinical trial to create such fabricated data. That is disease mongering to the health care provider.

2. Subjective screenings, such as those for various mood disorders. These screenings, as well as the affective disorders, which were rare until about 1995, involve leading questions often- created by the drug company. It was around this time that the United States was becoming more of a psychotropic nation.

These screenings that involve the leading questions responded by select groups of people. They are asked these questions by certain disease state support groups who have been converted into front groups after being funded by those big pharma companies who produce drugs for particular mood disorders.

3. Disease creations I: Social Anxiety Disorder, or social phobia: This condition is in the DSM IV which was published in 1994, and some were forced to delete the statement regarding this disorder that said, "Social Anxiety Disorder is not well-established, and requires further study."

Aside from what may be simply amplified introversion, social phobias are likely due to societal dysfunctions and certainly should not be labeled as a pathological condition requiring pharmacological treatment.

4. Disease creations II: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I call this a mid-life crisis, yet it was entered by instruction by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) into the DSM (the psychiatrist's bible) in 1993. Anxiety about the inevitable does not require pharmacological treatment.

5. Direct to Consumer Advertising:. Most memorable were those commercials for erectile dysfunction. Their absurdness in creating these commercials appears to have multiple psychotic components:

A healthy man who could probably run a marathon is having a decent time with his wife at some upper- middle class location. He is smiling all the time. Because now, his marriage is secure due to his ability to copulate- which was apparently absent before this wonder drug entered his system. Of course, it is not possible to have a happy marriage without intercourse, right?

Then there are other conditions which are entirely natural in the human lifespan, yet have been determined to be diseases by those who can profit off of these lifespan events. Examples include osteoporosis and menopause, as well as erectile dysfunction. It’s insane the FDA approves pharmaceuticals for these natural events that occur normally in a human being.

Finally, there are the required medical guidelines for various disease states, such as dyslipidemia. Drug companies that make medications to treat this disease are more than happy to support the financial needs involved in creating these guidelines. Dyslipidemia, for example:

Publications such as the Lipid Letter, and Lipid Management, both offered more aggressive management of the lipid profiles of the patients of the readers. And both publications were funded completely by those big pharma companies that promote statins. Same with cholesterol screenings that occur often that are implemented by those drug companies with drugs that treat the disorder of dyslipidemia.

A myth is something unproven. A false belief, or invented story.

Disease Mongering is not a myth. Large pharmaceutical corporations promote illness and disease- not desired by anyone and discredited by many, and these companies do this for profit and profit only.

I worked for three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world for over a decade, and the disease mongering protocols were similar if not identical with all of these companies consistently,

Dan Abshear

http://collections.plos.org/plosmedicine/diseasemongering-2006.php

Please review the link above, as there appears to be with some in the pharmaceutical corporate world that are offended by being labeled disease mongers. Often, others are offended by facts that exist as a reaction, it seems. Clearly, disease mongering is real, and activities illustrate this behavior.





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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on February 17, 2009 2:12 PM.

Health journalism competing with Britney? was the previous entry in this blog.

Mishandling of med school conflict of interest process is the next entry in this blog.

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