Drug industry creating new disease?

Drug companies are sponsoring creation of a new medical disorder known as female sexual dysfunction in order to build markets for drugs among women, despite controversy surrounding the medicalisation of sexual problems, finds an article in this week’s British Medical Journal. Over the past six years, researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry have been developing and defining the new disorder at company sponsored meetings, writes journalist Ray Moynihan. From the BMJ-British Medical Journal :Concerns over drug industry creation of new diseases

Drug companies are sponsoring creation of a new medical disorder known as female sexual dysfunction in order to build markets for drugs among women, despite controversy surrounding the medicalisation of sexual problems, finds an article in this week’s British Medical Journal (The making of a disease: female sexual dysfunction BMJ Volume 326, pp 45-47).

Over the past six years, researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry have been developing and defining the new disorder at company sponsored meetings, writes journalist, Ray Moynihan.

One of the milestones in the making of the new disorder was a JAMA article in February 1999, which suggested that 43% of women aged 18-59 have female sexual dysfunction. However, leading researchers have raised serious concerns about this figure, describing it as misleading and potentially dangerous.

Many researchers believe that portraying sexual difficulties as a dysfunction will encourage doctors to prescribe drugs that change sexual function, when attention should be paid to other aspects of the woman’s life. It’s also likely to make women think they have a malfunction when they do not. But perhaps the greatest concern is the ever-narrowing definitions of “normal” which help turn the complaints of the healthy into the conditions of the sick, says the author.

Although the corporate sponsored creation of a disease is not a new phenomenon, the role of drug companies in the construction and promotion of new conditions needs more public scrutiny, he concludes.


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