It’s all gone scare shaped

The Guardian is currently running a series of extracts from Ben Goldacre’s new book, Bad Science. The first two are witty, acerbic and address how implausible vaccine scare stories get picked up by a scandal hungry media, and how pharmaceutical companies attempt to persuade us that every discomfort is a medical disorder.

Actually, I’m still waiting for the copy I’ve ordered to arrive so haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but if you’re a fan of the Bad Science column then the extracts suggest that the book will be just as insightful.

Times have changed. The pharmaceutical industry is in trouble: the golden age of medicine has creaked to a halt, the low-hanging fruit of medical research has all been harvested, and the industry is rapidly running out of new drugs. Fifty “novel molecular entities” a year were registered in the 1990s, but now it’s down to 20, and many of those are just copies of other companies’ products, changed only enough to justify a new patent. So the story of “disease mongering” goes like this: because they cannot find new treatments for the diseases we already have, the pill companies have instead had to invent new diseases for the treatments they already have.

Recent favourites include social anxiety disorder (a new use for SSRI antidepressant drugs), female sexual dysfunction (a new use for Viagra in women), the widening diagnostic boundaries of “restless leg syndrome”, and of course “night eating syndrome” (another attempt to sell SSRI medication, bordering on self-parody) to name just a few: all problems, in a very real sense, but perhaps not necessarily the stuff of pills, and perhaps not all best viewed in reductionist biomedical terms. In fact, you might consider that reframing intelligence, loss of libido, shyness and tiredness as medical pill problems is a crass, exploitative, and frankly disempowering act.

Night eating syndrome? No wonder those Goths look so pale.

Link to ‘The media‚Äôs MMR hoax’.
Link to ‘The Medicalisation of Everyday Life’.
Link to book details.

2 Comments

  1. Damian
    Posted September 2, 2008 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I follow this column in the guardian however I am often dismayed by the conclusions it comes to from often insightful research and valid premises.
    Do pharma companies over state their products effectiveness? Sure. However it stretches things to suggest that the diseases and conditions that the pharma companies try to sell their pills for are themselves false. This is just as bad for the sick and disabled as the pharma companies activities as the major issue facing all disabled people is the attitude of society – hardly positively fueled by work like this. Social anxiety = shyness? Get real!
    If Mr Goldacre wants to challenge the pharma companies he should join me in working with (not for) the NHS to explore other models of treatment however he is ‘farming’ the plight of the sick just as the pharmas are. A shame as he is a technically excellent journo with a sharp wit.

  2. Posted October 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the wonderful information!
    No wonder Dr.Loren Mosher resigned from the American Psychiatric Association saying the following:
    “So, our guild organization provides a rationale, by its neurobiological tunnel vision, for keeping our distance from the molecule conglomerates we have come to define as patients. We condone and promote the widespread overuse and misuse of toxic chemicals that we know have serious long term effects: tardive dyskinesia, tardive dementia and serious withdrawal syndromes. So, do I want to be a drug company patsy who treats molecules with their formulary? No, thank you very much.”


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