Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Victory for Doctors and Drug Stores

The medical profession, in cahoots with the pharmaceutical industry, just won another coup in its continuing effort to put everyone under a doctor’s care and on drugs. Recently, when I saw an ad on television for yet another drug we are supposed to tell our doctors we desperately need, my first thought was: My God! That woman is a self-absorbed whiny hypochondriac. The drug being hawked by a Central Casting type we all recognize as our complaining spinster aunt was Lyrica and the disease was something I had never heard of—fibromyalgia--which, we were told causes debilitating pain throughout the body. An article in the New York Times this morning (“Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?”) reports that the drug touted in the television commercial is manufactured by Pfizer, that it has been approved by the FDA, and Eli Lilly and Forest Labs have now asked for FDA approval for similar drugs to counteract “chronic, widespread pain of unknown origin”. Lyrica acts on the brain’s perception of pain. And although Lyrica does nothing to cure the pain, which may or may not be intolerable, may or may not have physical origins and may or may not be caused by a real disease, the side effects caused by Lyrica are very real and include severe weight gain, dizziness. sleepiness and edema. Funnily enough, even though the spinster aunt in the ad is skinny, most sufferers of chronic pain are obese. Furthermore, the article says many doctors not only dispute the need for the drug, they dispute the existence of the disease. Lyrica is used to treat diabetic nerve pain and seizures. But in June it received FDA approval for use in treating "fibromyalgia". Its sales reached $1.8 billion in 2007, up 50 percent from 2006. The NYT reports “Analysts predict sales will rise an additional 30 percent this year, helped by consumer advertising.” The NYT goes on to say, “Doctors who are skeptical of fibromyalgia say vague complaints of chronic pain do not add up to a disease. No biological tests exist to diagnose fibromyalgia, and the condition cannot be linked to any environmental or biological causes...The diagnosis of fibromyalgia itself worsens the condition by encouraging people to think of themselves as sick and catalog their pain, said Dr. Nortin Hadler, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina who has written extensively about fibromyalgia.” Am I saying that the million people who report having chronic pain are imagining it? No. I am saying pain is not a disease. I’m saying pain is a symptom. I’m saying that drugs like Lyrica and drug companies and doctors who promote it are simply the 21st century’s version of snake oil salesmen. I’m saying chronic fatigue, chronic pain, chronic complaining, chronic visits to doctors because “they can’t find what’s wrong with me”, are not drug-treatable diseases. I'm saying that although the complainants may find temporary relief in using drugs, they do not have a specific disease. I’m saying that the medical profession turning the populace into drug-dependent addicts who need to visit their so-called health providers regularly in order to get a fix is scamming us and we have become a nation of foggy-brained, passive, low-energy, ego-centered, hypochondriacs because of it.


Barry Schwartz said...

It never registered with you that I have fibromyalgia syndrome, did it?

Barry Schwartz said...

Incidentally there is something that I call "speech-bursting" syndrome. It is found especially in Philosophy departments, but is widespread.