I came across an article entitled “Drugmakers draw criticism for pushing fibromyalgia” in Newsday, distributed by the Associated Press. While the article was about fibromyalgia, I couldn’t help but think otherwise.
WASHINGTON - Two drugmakers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year to raise awareness of a murky illness, helping boost sales of pills recently approved as treatments and drowning out unresolved questions . . . .
Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants, more than $6 million donated by drugmakers Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the first three quarters of 2008, to nonprofit groups for medical conferences and educational campaigns, an Associated Press analysis found.
. . . Fibromyalgia draws skepticism for several reasons. The cause is unknown. There are no tests to confirm a diagnosis. Many patients also fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome and other pain ailments.
Experts don't doubt the patients are in pain. They differ on what to call it and how to treat it.
Many doctors and patients say the drugmakers are educating the medical establishment about a misunderstood illness. But critics say the companies are hyping fibromyalgia along with their treatments, and that the grant-making is a textbook example of how drugmakers unduly influence doctors and patients.
"I think the purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs," said Dr. Frederick Wolfe.
Couldn’t you just sub in any number of so-called childhood psychiatric disorders wherever it says “fibromyalgia”? I mean, there is no denying that the pharmaceutical companies “spent hundreds of millions of dollars” to “raise awareness” of these disorders. Just look at their full page ads in magazines, full length, prime time commercials, and the videos, CDs and mailings that are sent directly to consumers about these “disorders.” Equally true is the fact that such direct to consumer advertising helps increase sales of the pharmaceutical companies’ products.
There is also no denying that drug companies have contributed lots of monies to “nonprofit groups” to “educate” people about these disorders. CHADD (a national nonprofit group that deals with attention deficit disorder) immediately comes to mind. That organization alone had has received hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars from the makers of Ritalin.
Similarly, the cause of childhood psychiatric disorders is unknown; there are no biological tests to confirm a diagnosis – only observation and questionnaires; many patients diagnosed with a particular disorder also fit the criteria for other disorders or other conditions. Experts don’t doubt that the patients are experiencing difficulties, but many experts disagree on what exactly is wrong and how best to treat it.
We are talking about a billion dollar industry, after all.
It just makes you wonder . . .