Since direct-to-consumer drug advertising debuted in 1997, pharma's credo has been When The Medication Is Ready, The Disease (and Patients) Will Appear. Who knew so many people suffered from seasonal allergies, GERD, erectile dysfunction, restless legs and bipolar disorder?
But pharma's recent plan to move from mass-market molecules into more lucrative vaccines and biologics did not see the anti-vaxer movement coming: millions of Americans saying You Want to Vaccinate Me -- and My Child -- with WHAT?? and condemning vials of H1N1, rotavirus, MMR vaccines and Gardasil and Cervarix to sit, well, way past their expiration dates. Nor were fears of an international vaccine conspiracy helped by former CDC Director Julie Gerberding resurfacing as President of Merck Vaccines in December. (Nice revolving door if you can catch it.)
Now pharma is back to creating new diseases, patients, risks and "awareness campaigns" faster than you can say thimerosal (the vaccine preservative that started the backlash.)
A pill to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis packs the "magic three" of drug sales -- fear, forever and faith -- since you never know if it's working or if you need it, but fear stopping. But 15 years after women began swallowing bisphosphonates like Fosamax and Boniva because pharma-planted bone density machines in medical offices revealed they had "osteopenia,"* bisphosphonates are linked to jaw bone death, esophageal cancer and causing the fractures they were supposed to prevent. Sorry about that. Now pharma is hawking Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) like Evista and Tamoxifen to prevent osteoporosis and even some cancers. Unfortunately they can cause others"
If it seems like the whole world is on statins, it's not your imagination. Last year the FDA approved AstraZeneca's Crestor for children as young as 10 and in March it approved Crestor for 6.5 million people who have no cholesterol or heart problems at all! (See: fear, forever and faith.) Many say, since lead investigator of the Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention study Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is co-patent holder/inventor of the C-reactive protein (CRP) test which "proves" Crestor's effectiveness, there's a conflict of interest. Others say, since CRP isn't necessarily even a marker for heart disease and statins can cause Type 2 diabetes, it's bad science along with a conflict of interest.