August 31st, 2011

Selling Diseases

Fox Atlanta

Before you down that pill in your hand, you may want to stop and rethink what you’re doing. That pill may be for an illness created to sell you medication.

The FDA has to approve a drug before it can be marketed. But one doctor claims the drug companies are getting out ahead of that process by creating ads for diseases she says don’t even exist.

A quick search on YouTube and you will see the commercials warning you about symptoms for diseases you may never have heard of.

They make you wonder—do you have it? Do you need to treat it?

“It’s not very difficult to make people feel like they are not normal,” said Dr. Adrianne Fugh-Berman. “They might say do you urinate more than five times a day? And the viewer is thinking, gee, doesn’t everyone? I’m not really keeping track of how many times my office mates are going to the bathroom.

Georgetown University’s Dr. Adrianne Fugh-Berman is creating a buzz in the medical world. She says pharmaceutical companies are marketing drugs before they’ve been approved by the FDA. They don’t advertise the drug, instead they sell the disease.

“What industry does is invent conditions, invent diseases in order to expand the market for a drug,” said Fugh-Berman. “By the time the drug comes out both prescribers and patients are relieved that finally here’s this answer to this problem i have been hearing about for years.”

Diseases Dr. Fugh-Berman says you should be wary of include, overactive bladder syndrome,
social anxiety disorder, osteopenia, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD and pediatric bipolar syndrome

“Pediatric Bipolar Disorder is the Terrible Twos. You know how two year-olds are happy one minute and then crying the next? There were physicians at Harvard and other places who were hired by drug companies to go out and convince physicians this was a real disorder. This wasn’t just a normal developmental phase but this was a disease,” said Fugh-Berman.

It’s pretty common practice for doctors to receive speaking or consulting fees from drug companies. To find out if your doctor is one of them, online databases like allow you to search for your doctor by name.

But, keep it in perspective. If you’re doctor is earning a few hundred dollars a year, that may not be a big deal. But if he or she is receiving more than you earn in a year, that may raise a red flag with you.

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