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Selling Sickness: How Drug Companies are Turning Us All Into Patients Mass Market Paperback – 6 Jan 2005

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Selling Sickness: How Drug Companies are Turning Us All Into Patients + Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (6 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1741145791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588267832
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.1 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 416,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels examine how the drug industry has transformed the way we think about physical and mental health and turned more and more of us each year into customers." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ray Moynihan is one of the world's leading health writers. His work has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Australian Financial Review, the British Medical Journal, Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine. Alan Cassels is a Canadian researcher and writer who works on drug policy issues.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D&D TOP 50 REVIEWER on 29 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent exposé of 10 or more examples of manufactured or exaggerated illness, from adult attention deficit disorder to osteoporosis. Overblown promotions of drugs and concealment of drug side-effects well explained. Big Pharma's use of public relations firms to create fear of some more or less normal conditions and its secret ownership of some patient support groups are shown. Its lobbying is legendary. Books like this could save your life and the lives of your loved ones, and can certainly help to avoid much unnecessary harm.

There's valuable information here, from an excellent investigative journalist. Everyone should know about this book, as well as similarly worthwhile books like Trick and Treat, The Truth about the Drug Companies, Dirty Medicine, Bad Pharma, Racketeering In Medicine, The Great Cholesterol Con, Heart Frauds, How to Protect Your Heart from Your Doctor, Confessions of a Medical Heretic (amusingly written, by a medical doctor, as well as scandalous), The Medical Mafia (also by a medic, similar theme as Confessions and passionately but badly written), Cancer is Not a Disease, Cancer: Why We're Still Dying to Know the Truth, The Cancer Industry, Why We will Never Win the War on AIDS and the many books against vaccination, the biggest scam that is maiming and killing the coming generations, such as Fear of the Invisible.
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This book was a bit of an eye-opener. Pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on pills. Doctors don't have time to treat the whole person. If there's a magic pill, then that's what's given to patients. Always read the side effects before you go onto any medication long-term and do your own research. Your doctor doesn't have the time to research "your" case. You can do that better than anyone. There are occasions where there is no alternative, but evidence from this book suggests that there are so many more where there is a healthier alternative than the prescribed medication.
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Modern medicine with pharmacy companies want to make everyone in the world patient for ever to profit from sickness. People should trust more in themselves but not believe in those who make people patients but not to heal them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 61 reviews
107 of 112 people found the following review helpful
Peak oil and Health -- you might not even be ill 17 Sep 2006
By Alice Friedemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After oil production peaks, higher energy prices are likely to sink the world economy into a never-ending depression, so it will be important to stay healthy, because everything, and especially medical costs, are likely to be more expensive in the future. Before you incur high medical costs you can little afford, make sure you're even ill first. A great deal of fat could be cut out of the health care system right now and used instead to help people who are truly ill.

Getting healthy people to buy drugs they don't need, which won't cure what they don't have, and potentially have unpleasant to dire side effects, sounds like such a crazy premise, even Hollywood wouldn't buy it.

Yet that's just what's happened, as Moynihan and Cassels document in their book "Selling Sickness". The 500 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry has plenty of money to spend convincing us that our ordinary travails mask mental illnesses, and common aches and pains need treatment.

Americans represent five percent of the world's population, but we consume fifty percent of prescription drugs.

Millions of healthy people have asked their doctor about that purple pill they saw on television, or been given drugs pushed by the army of 80,000 drug salesmen who've influenced your doctor with free lunches and far more.

Many people now take drugs that may have harmful side effects and won't make much of a difference in improving their health. Hormone replacement therapy turned out to increase the chance of heart attacks for women, one of the blockbuster cholesterol lowering drugs was withdrawn from the market because it was implicated in causing deaths.

The FDA isn't looking out for you either, as shown in the chapter on irritable bowel syndrome. The FDA let the drug Lotronex remain far too long on the market, despite evidence coming in from doctors that it was killing, hospitalizing, and causing complications never seen before by doctors treating this syndrome.

How has the pharmaceutical industry pulled this off?

1) The point where you "need" to take a particular drug is continually lowered (i.e. for cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc), often far lower than necessary. Many of the doctors setting these lower standards have financial ties to the drug companies, so when more drugs are sold to more people, they stand to profit. Every time the good cholesterol level is lowered, millions of new customers are created overnight.

2) New diseases are invented that don't really exist. Menopause, for example, is a natural part of the life cycle. It's doubtful that attention deficit disorder and other "diseases" in the book exist.

3) Pharmaceutical companies exaggerate the good the drug will do for you. Brittle bones are only 13% of the problem in osteoporosis, which tends to affect people the last chapter of their life. Far more important is: don't fall! Be sure you've got good eyeglasses; your rugs won't slip, exercise, and so on.

4) You'll never see ads telling you the one thing you need to know: if you want to lead a healthy life, eat a good diet and exercise. But you will see all sorts of deceptive ads, which this book does a good job of describing. You'll be angry and sometimes shocked when you see the dirty tricks used to promote drugs.

There are people who stand to benefit from these drugs, the book is definitely not saying they're totally useless, and in fact, many of the people who do need these drugs aren't getting them.

But before you decide to take a drug, be sure to do research first to make sure you really need it. If you have one of the following, or know someone who does, you might want to read this book, which discusses depression, high cholesterol, menopause, attention deficit disorder, high blood pressure, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social anxiety disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction. The final chapter is entitled "What can we do?"

61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
OK, But There Are Better Books on the Topic! 25 Dec 2005
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The marketing strategies of the world's biggest drug companies now aggressively target the healthy and the well. Common complaints have been transferred into frightening conditions and more and more ordinary people turned into patients. The drug companies have found that there's a lot of money to be made telling healthy people they're sick. With less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. makes up over 50% of the world market for prescription drugs. Ironically, these much-hyped medicines sometimes cause more harm than good; another problem is that drug companies encourage over-reliance on drugs - instead of smoking cessation and exercise.

After this introduction, "Selling Sickness" goes on to cover examples in cholesterol, depression, high blood pressure, etc. Cholesterol, for example, has become a $25 billion, rapidly-expanding industry, even though cholesterol is only one of several factors affecting health, and for many, not a factor at all. As with many other conditions, the definition of what constitutes "high cholesterol" is regularly revised. In the latest instance (2004), eight of the nine experts on the panel also served as paid speakers, consultants, or researchers to the world's major drug companies. In most cases the experts had ties to at least four of the companies.

It is estimated that almost 90% of those writing guidelines have conflicts of interest because of financial ties to the industry. Close to half the billion/year funding for medical education comes from drug companies. About 300,000 meetings, events, and conferences are sponsored by the industry each year, often hosted by societies like the American Heart Association, partly funded by the drug companies as well. These entangled relationships are often not revealed.

After it was revealed that one NIH researcher had received $430,000 from industry sources and another held stock worth almost $2 million in drug companies, the NIH announced a moratorium on financial ties to private companies for all scientific staff.

The "bad news" about "Selling Medicine" is that the situation is not as simple as it appears. Medical experts' time is valuable - drug companies are not likely to obtain the benefit of their knowledge without payment. Thus, some "conflict of interest" is inevitable. The problem is determining whether the situation has gotten out of hand. How this might occur is suggested in the chapter on high-blood-pressure where it is noted that one could state that lowering high blood pressure reduces the threat of heart-attack by 33% (pretty impressive) - until one realizes the risk was only 3% to start with. Books that address this issue much more effectively include "Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine" by John Abramson, and "The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It" by Marcia Angell.
90 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Big Pharma Mashed Again 2 Oct 2005
By Joel M. Kauffman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An excellent exposé of 10 or more examples of manufactured or exaggerated illness, from adult attention deficit disorder to osteoporosis. Overblown promotions of drugs and concealment of drug side-effects well explained. Big Pharma's use of public relations firms to create fear of some more or less normal condition is shown. Big Pharma's capture of the FDA and other agencies is shown.

Big Pharma's secret ownership of some patient support groups is shown, as is its control of much Continuing Medical Education. Its lobbying is legendary.

Even if you know about this disgrace in the USA, there are many aspects that may be new to you, so read this book.

Easy to read, good referencing, decent index.

Weak technically, but this might have been a desire not to stress the reader. Still, authors seem unaware that older people with the highest cholesterol and LDL levels live the longest (Schupf N, Costa R, Luchsinger J, et al. (2005). Relationship Between Plasma Lipids and All-Cause Mortality in Nondemented Elderly. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 53:219-226.), or that blood pressure rises naturally with age, and only the top 10% of BP levels can be treated with any benefit.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
What we need is a drug to cure our hypochondria! 2 Jan 2007
By Mr. Pessimistic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Just a humorous aside to start. I found it amusing that the two lowest ratings in these online reviews came from physicians. Does this speak to the point made in the book that the perception of ties between Pharma and the doctors is all too real?

I enjoyed this book immensely. The ideas presented in this book have been running around in my mind for a while now. I get ill just wathcing these drug commercials and any intelligent person should see that the details presented about these new conditions are skewed towards a particular drug. This should inspire caution on our part.

These days, if you do not have the right disease, you are just behind the times. I get the feeling that we WANT to be sick, or is it just that we as a whole have a proclivity towards a quick fix from the trials and tribulations of everday life?

My one problem with the book is that it seemed overly repetetive in some passages and could have benefitted from better editing. As another reviewer put it: It seemed rushed. But the message is good and the ideas are presented well. It is a well documented book, so further research can be done by the serious individual that may need a bit more information to see that it is not wool that is being pulled over our eyes, but Prozac over our minds.

Mr. P.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Television Drug Advertising 16 Sep 2005
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's the Great American Way, gone a little bit crazy. There have always been beople who will tell you that by using their product your life would be better. And now television has come about so they can tell millions of people at once. In this case the product being sold is drugs. But what people are buying is peace of mind. It may be that that new car will help you get the girl, or maybe it's Viagra.

The ones I particularly like are those commercials that can't quite describe what the illness is, but taking this drug will fix it. And I also like the bit in all of them where they have to tell about things like side effects. Strangely enough this bit seems to be spoken very fast. My favorite one here is if you get an erection that lasts more than four hours seek medical help. ==While the authors make a good case that the drug companies are treating non-existing illnesses, is it any real difference from telling us that brand name pain killers are better than those bottles labeled aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

I think the book is quite right, the drug companies want to sell us more drugs. And they will find people willing to pay for them. I enjoyed reading the book, it details how the drug companies have created a world where the US with 5% of the population buys 50% of the drugs sold. And our longevity rates are not at the top of the lists.
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