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11th April 2006 Drugs Companies 'Inventing Diseases'

Article - Drugs Companies 'Inventing Diseases'

Pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs that place healthy people at risk, a leading medical journal claims.

"Disease-mongering" promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild conditions in order to boost profits for the industry, according to the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

Researchers said conditions such as restless legs syndrome - an urge to move one's legs - and female sexual dysfunction were being presented as more prevalent than they actually were.

It criticised attempts to convince the public in the United States that 43 per cent of women lived with sexual dysfunction.

Authors David Henry, of Newcastle University, Australia, and Australian journalist Ray Moynihan, also said that aspects of ordinary life such as the menopause were being "medicalised".

They added that risk factors like cholesterol and osteoporosis were being presented as diseases.

The report said: "Disease-mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.

"It is exemplified mostly explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry-funded disease awareness campaigns - more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health."

They called on doctors, patients and support groups to be aware of the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and called for more research into the way in which conditions are presented.

"The motives of health professionals and health advocacy groups may well be the welfare of patients, rather than any direct self-interested financial benefit, but we believe that too often marketers are able to crudely manipulate those motivations," the report at www.plosmedicine.org concluded.

 
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