Medicalisation: Who and What is Influencing Your Medical Decisions?
The following article is not about fertility directly. But indirectly you can see how it fits in. This is meant to empower you to take control of your health and make informed choices. Educate yourself in what may be behind the scenes so you can confidently make choices about your situation for the right reasons.
Medicalisation: “Disease Mongering”
By Dr. Ben Lerner
The pharmaceutical industry is raking in unheard of profits — more than three times the average of other Fortune 500 industries — even after including all research and development costs. Much of this is done under the guise that it’s for the greater good. However, the facts bear out the system has become replete with research bias and conflicts of interest.
In an article titled Selling Sickness: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Disease Mongering, the British Medical Journal traveled to the depths of the health care system crisis created by what they called the medicalisation of society.
Medicalisation is the medical industry’s practice of turning commonly found symptoms into a “disease” so its members can prescribe a medication for it. In addition, the medical industry works to increase the awareness of its drugs and treatment to get more customers, i.e. lots of TV commercials, ads, bowl sponsorships and the like.
The Unholy Alliance
There is what’s been described as an “unholy alliance” between pharmaceutical manufacturers and doctors who are informing the population that they are, in fact, ill. Medical doctors are intelligent, good people.
They go through an extended educational process to learn how to help. Nonetheless, due to the speed at which information is coming across a doctor’s desk and given how busy doctors are with their medical practices, they can’t possibly keep up.
As a result, for prescribing advice, they’re forced to rely on the very skewed opinions of drug reps and the biased research paid for by their companies. I’ve heard it said, so much new information on medical treatment comes out each year, within four years, a medical doctor’s training is obsolete.
(If you’ve ever seen a dozen police try to prevent a stadium full of college kids from rushing the football field after their school just won the big game, you’ll get a slight idea of what medical doctors are being asked to handle during the course of their careers.)
So they’ve been taught, since the time they were medical school students, to rely on the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and their reps for reinforcements (help, support, education and advice on practicing medicine).
In a 2003 publication, the British Medical Journal said, “Twisted together like the snake and the staff, doctors and drug companies have become entangled in a web of interactions as controversial as they are ubiquitous (everywhere).”
Four years ago, all of the biggies — the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Annals of Internal Medicine and The Lancet — put out an all-points bulletin throwing up a red flag warning that clinical research had really become little more than commercial activity (a way of making money).
John Abramson, M.D. points out in his book, Overdosed America, a 2002 article in the JAMA showed “59 percent of the experts who write the clinical guidelines that define good medical care (the standards to which doctors are often held in malpractice) have direct financial ties to the companies whose products are being evaluated.”
If doctors choose to ignore guidelines, they risk their reputations and standing in the medical community, as well as being charged with malpractice.
“The exaggeration and distortion of the 2001 cholesterol guidelines that are responsible for the millions of Americans being treated with cholesterol lowering statin drugs (Lipitor, Zocor, Prevachol, Lescol, Mevacor, Crestor) despite of lack of scientific evidence of benefit of such widespread use is presented as a case in point.”
Dr. Abramson further explains, if these new guidelines are followed, the number of people taking statin drugs will go from 13 million to 36 million with the only likely upside being drug company stockholder profits, not healthier people.
A key strategy of the alliances is to target the news media with stories designed to create fears about the condition or disease and draw attention to the latest treatment. This has led to problems on several key levels:
- People with benign, normal symptoms taking dangerous drugs. As we are convinced that natural signs of aging and common conditions are diseases or treatable symptoms, we take drugs for such things as balding, anxiety, mild bone loss and indigestion, which put us at risk for issues that were not true illnesses or risks.
- People being tested regularly and undergoing unnecessary treatments with drugs and invasive surgery. Very few people after middle age can pass tests without being told that they have some sort of “risk.” This risk is turned into a pseudo-disease leading to such things as dangerous breast and colon surgery and “preventative” medications. (For example, a male patient over age 40 goes to the doctor for a sore throat and finds the doctor’s finger up his rectum. The doctor informs him he has a prostate issue and removes it, causing the man to be impotent for the rest of his now-miserable life.)
- Fear and a loss of clarity in the important practice of medicine. As a result of “disease mongering,” the more the medical industry influences a nation, the sicker that nation “considers itself to be.” It eats away at our self-confidence and teaches us that we’re weak and incapable of staying well, and that all signs and symptoms are potentially dangerous conditions and diseases. Truly, this sort of marketing has blurred the lines of what drugs and surgery we really need or don’t.
Worst of all, rather than focusing more time and attention on their health as they age or as they see degeneration setting in, people settle for a diagnosis and the latest medications. The only winners are the ones who profit.
Suggestions from the British Medical Journal for eliminating disease mongering:
- Move away from using corporate-funded information on medical conditions and disease.
- Widen notions of informed consent to include information about controversy surrounding the definitions of conditions and disease.
- Lead people to participate in their health and not just in their disease (inside out versus outside in).
What stands in the way of change: Powerful pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, along with other powerful corporations with incredibly large vested interests in the medical business. This kind of money and influence can tip the scales of opinion from professional caution to uncritical acceptance.
A Personal Note
If you look at the people who make up governmental, hospital and medical health advisory boards and their financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, you clearly see conflicts of interest. Sadly, the public is mostly unaware of these interlocking interests and continue to believe in the sanctity of medicine, an industry that’s forgotten its sole purpose was to serve the people and not itself.
I really believe in what was originally the true principles of medicine. Many friends, patients and family members of mine have been saved by the power of emergency medical intervention.
Unfortunately for all, what was once designed to save us from disaster or death in the case of extreme circumstances, has now crept into our every day lifestyle. Symptoms of all kinds have been labeled “disease” or “deadly” causing us to now fear every sniffle, cough, ache, or pain.
What’s worse, we now seek passive medical retribution for both our physical and mental wellbeing rather than actively participating in it. When symptoms arrive as a result of how poorly we’ve neglected our bodies and minds, rather than taking personal responsibility for our own wellness (restoring wholeness) and trusting in the God-given recuperative powers of our body, we seek those who are now only too willing take on this role for us.
As a result of handing over the full authority of our lives over to the industry of medicine, the pharmaceutical and medical establishments have become so bloated, profitable and powerful, we’re now witnessing it getting completely out of control.
While, on one hand, I personally owe much to the practice of medicine, experts are finding the harm the present health care delivery system is causing now outweighs the good. It’s time that balance were restored — taking the good of medicine and replacing the bad with new ways of thinking and more appropriate ways of taking care of our bodies.
I’m not angry at the system. It is what it is. But, be aware of it, choose your doctors and advice very carefully, for God’s sake, look out for those drugs, and recognize all the greatness in you.
Take back authority over your life!
Dr. Lerner is the coauthor of Body by God: The Owner’s Manual For Maximized Living.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.