5_Selling Sickness - Moynihan (1)

5_Selling Sickness - Moynihan (1) - Education and debate...

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Discussion These observations of disease mongering are selective and preliminary. They are not the result of systematic study, but rather a series of anecdotal case studies designed to provoke debate. We know little of the true extent of these industry funded zones of influence, and even less of their impact. But we believe more information and analysis of the nature and functioning of these “unholy alliances” 2 is warranted. The key con- cern with the examples here is the invisible and unregulated attempts to change public perceptions about health and illness to widen markets for new drugs. Although mainstream media already play an important role investigating and reporting on contem- porary promotional activities, more could be done to expose and reduce misleading “wonder drug” stories, which help to facilitate so much disease mongering. As a practical step, we suggest that health professionals, policy makers, journalists, and consum- ers move away from reliance on corporate sponsored material about the nature or prevalence of disease. Genuinely independent sources of information about health problems could replace those skewed towards making the maximum numbers of healthy people feel sick. Just as researchers from the Cochrane Collabora- tion are generating systematic evaluations of the best evidence about therapies, a similar effort may be required in evaluating and/or producing unbiased information about illness—starting with those condi- tions most prone to disease mongering. Independent lay involvement is crucial to produce accurate, compre- hensive, and accessible materials. The public is entitled to know about the
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