Disease Mongering (2010)
There can and should be legitimate debate over whether certain conditions or symptoms should be treated with drugs. However, the debate may be skewed by the fact that pharmaceutical companies have a strong financial incentive to increase the markets for their products. Companies utilize multimillion dollar ad campaigns to change perceptions of disease held by both doctors and prospective patients.
Industry defends these campaigns as necessary to educate the public about, for example, underdiagnosed diseases. But critics use the term “disease mongering” to describe some ad campaigns which they believe are intended to medicalize aspects of normal life. For example, while critics acknowledge that some patients have severe manifestations of: loss of sexual desire (“hypoactive sexual desire disorder”), shyness (“social phobia”), restless legs (“restless legs syndrome”), or difficulty concentrating (“attention deficit disorder”), they point out that many of these phenomenon in less severe forms may be common life experiences not warranting treatment. Yet, marketing campaigns for drugs may be designed precisely to expand the market for the drugs to those who are not necessarily severe sufferers. This is problematic because side-effects may outweigh any marginal benefit received, and individuals who are convinced they have a disease may experience unnecessary anxiety. It may also lead to economic waste among consumers, and a diversion of resources away from the treatment of more serious diseases.