Is disease mongering the greatest threat to public health?

Feeling tired? Blue? Forgetful?  Maybe less competent in bed as you used to be?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you could have depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease or good old sexual dysfunction, all which could be vastly improved by taking a new and patented medication.   Or at least that’s what modern medicine wishes you to believe.

The problem is that much of modern prescribing is aided and abetted by the pharmaceutical industry, a self-perpetuating cycle of “disease mongering,” which offers a prescription solution to whatever illness, condition or concern that comes our way.

How does one overcome cynicism and not throw the baby out with the snake oil?  Alan Cassels is no cynic, but he preaches a form of healthy skepticism–a vital, potentially life-saving habit of questioning pharmaceutical-driven dogma and the medical profession who promotes it.

We know our doctors are altogether well-intentioned and many pharmaceutical products are altogether efficacious, which is fortunate given most patient’s implicit faith that medical treatment is a benefit.   The rub happens on the edges, where the yearning for easy medical solutions intersects with a powerful and well-stoked profit motive that keeps us running for the pharmaceutical cure.

Alan Cassels has been immersed in pharmaceutical policy research for the past 17 years, primarily working on national and provincial studies of prescription benefit policies, and the effects of independent information on prescriber and consumer behaviour.  His  interest in the quality of health coverage has made him into one of Canada’s leading researchers on Canadian medical reporting.   He has frequently reported on consumer health issues for magazines, newspapers and the CBC Radio program IDEAS.  His book, Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us All into Patients (co-written with Ray Moynihan) was an international bestseller.  His second book, The ABC’s of Disease Mongering: An Epidemic in 26 letters, is an illustrated book of rhymes which one critic likened to  “Dr. Seuss taking on an overmedicated and over-diagnosed culture.”

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