More than two thirds of U.S. adults are now overweight and it is fair to say that almost all of them overeat. It is not too difficult to overeat when food and snack ads are everywhere--as are the products themselves. Why are snacks sold in the hardware store, office supply store and car wash? Because we've gone a whole 45 minutes without eating? Why do hotel rooms have mini-bars? Because it has been a whole hour since dinner? The average U.S. refrigerator is opened 50 times a day, probably correlated with TV ads. When some Europeans saw Americans downing cheese fries at 10:30 am in a mall food court they legitimately asked "what meal is that?"
Now those cagey, Pharma marketers who brought us "adult ADHD" and "pediatric psychopharmacology" have elevated overeating into a Real Disease. People do not overeat because they are tired, bored, sad, frustrated, angry and battered with food ads all day long--they have "Binge Eating Disorder." A real disease requiring Real Drugs.
The redefinition certainly worked with depression. People who are not hopelessly happy every day thanks to real problems with work, family, money and romance also known as Life--are now said to have "major depression." Almost a quarter of the population is now on antidepressants for a condition that was once rare and considered self-limiting. Ka-ching.
If people want to self-diagnose psychiatric conditions and take expensive drugs what is the harm? The harm--other than raising everyone's healthcare costs--is that over the long term the drugs often stop working and even make people worse like the notorious "Prozac poop-out." Exhibit A is the fact that suicide is rising as more and more Americans take antidepressants--not falling. The diet pill craze driven by pills like Preludin, Ionamin and Desoxyn ended by the 1980s for the same reason--once the pills quit working people felt worse and actually got fatter. Thanks for nothing.
Now, the FDA has approved Shire's stimulant Vyvanse as the first drug to treat binge eating disorder. Vyvanse is already profitable to treat ADHD and earned the drug giant more than $1 billion last year says Reuters. Shire specializes in stimulants and also makes the ADHD drugs Intuniv, Adderall XR and the Daytrana patch. Shire has fought to protect "marketshare" by making sure kids don't go off their ADHD meds when they leave home.
"We know that we lose a significant number of patients in the late teen years, early 20s as they kind of fall out of the system based on the fact that they no longer go to a pediatrician," Michael Cola, President of Shire Specialty Pharmaceuticals said in a conference call. In response, Shire ran an ad campaign in college papers called It's Your ADHD. Own It. "I remember being the kid with ADHD. Truth is, I still have it," said one ad which featured a photo of Adam Levine, the lead singer of Maroon 5.
At an American Psychiatric Association annual meeting I attended, Shire had constructed an entire child's bedroom to sell Intuniv and Ann Childress, MD, who was on Shire's Speaker's Bureau, delivered a breathless commercial for Vyvanse that had doctors squirming.