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General News    H2'ed 11/15/18

Do You Have These Diseases? Pharma Hopes So

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Have you ever noticed how Pharma has things exactly backwards? Instead of developing new meds that people need like non-addictive painkillers and antibiotics for resistant infections, it develops new diseases.

In the excellent book, Generation RX, Greg Critser traces the history of direct-to-consumer advertising and unveils early concerns from major drug companies that it would raise fears of disease, sell unnecessary pills and corrupt the doctor/patient relationship. That's exactly what has happened and Pharma is lamenting it all the way to the bank.

Thanks to Pharma marketing, Americans are over-screened, over-diagnosed and over-medicated
Thanks to Pharma marketing, Americans are over-screened, over-diagnosed and over-medicated
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Here are some diseases Pharma suggests----and hopes----you might have.

1. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Who knows or wants to know what exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is--characterized by frequent diarrhea, gas and bloating and stomach pain? To make exocrine pancreatic insufficiency a more patient-friendly disease, AbbVie has given it the snappy initials EPI. (After all, snappy initials helped launch new diseases like ED, Low T or RLS.) If you have even one of the intestinal symptoms, warns AbbVie, it could mean you have EPI. Ads send the curious and questioning to the website Identify EPI which shows an outsized toilet to pay off the campaign line Don't Keep a Lid on It." Get it? Don't be embarrassed to tell your doctor about your "poop" problems say the ads because treatment is available. AbbVie's drug, Creon will treat the poop disorder but its warnings say it can also cause a poop disorder--it may cause "frequent or abnormal bowel movements; bloating" we are told. Maybe you will have poop problems either way--but with the advertised drug, Pharma will make money.

2. Chronic Idiopathic Constipation

The last year has featured a lot of poop disorders. People have had constipation since time began. Milk of Magnesia has been around since our grandparents' day and ancient texts instructed people to squat in the river to allow fluids to flow into their intestines for constipation. But now, Pharma says, your constipation may actually be a disease. It may be chronic idiopathic constipation or CIC and require an expensive prescription drug. "'Chronic' means the constipation is long-lasting or keeps coming back," say ads for the CIC drug Linzess. When it comes to poop, Linzess does double duty. It also treats irritable bowel syndrome or--any guesses?--IBS. FierceBiotech predicted Linzess could be a $1billion a year drug thanks to the growing bowel drug "market." To coax the bowel drug market along, no pun intended, a quiz on WedMD magazine asks "Could you have IBS?" and helps people assess their symptoms. WebMD is known for fostering and driving "cyberchondria" with its popular "symptom checker." Is anyone surprised WebMD's original partners were drug companies?

3. Chronic Widespread Muscle Pain

"What's causing your chronic widespread MUSCLE pain," asks a recent ad for the prescription drug Lyrica."The answer may be over-active NERVES." Lyrica was Pfizer's follow-up to the lucrative Neurontin and both have checked past. Many people have muscle pain from exercise, aging, posture, a bad bed, overexertion and strain, PMS or a cold or flu. But now these people can ask themselves if maybe they have a disease. Instead of using an over-the-counter pain reliever for their aches and pains, they may need an expensive prescription drug. Treating your "chronic widespread muscle pain" from a bad day at the gym or "overactive nerves" from overexertion with a prescription raises everyone's health care costs and poses unneeded risks. Drug raters on Askapatient.com report serious side effects on Lyrica like memory loss, mental confusion, extreme weight gain, hair loss and impaired driving.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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