Wonder Cures!

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Big Pharma has developed so many wonder cures, there will soon be nothing left to cure.  If that were only the case.

However, every week the pharmaceutical world manages to get itself banner headings across the globe, with headlines such as “Arthritis pill beats Viagra as best seller.”  Certainly attention grabbing.  All they have to do is to send out press releases with ‘cancer’ or ED (Erectile Dysfunction) in the subject line and the story will get a run.

For example, I must admit that my first thought was that somehow this new arthritis cure-all was able to give Willy the Wonder Wand a new lease of life as a sort of pleasant side effect.  However, this was not the case as I found by reading further.  The new wonder cure is purely for pain relief from arthritis.  Reading further down the story it appeared that this new drug was supposed to fix the aches without drilling holes in your stomach the way the more usual arthritis drugs do.

Even further reading showed that the manufacturer claimed that the new wonder cure “MAY (my capitals) cause fewer ulcers than other drugs” although the American Food and Drug Administration still required the manufacturer to put the same warnings about stomach ulcers on this new drug as they have to with the other older drugs for pain relief.

All of a sudden, this newspaper article did not look as informative as it did before.  Even the reference to Viagra was somewhat suspect, especially when the writer said, “A significant amount of usage of Viagra was recreational and after a while the users got over the novelty of it.”  This quotation was attributed to a Jack Lamberton, an analyst from a securities firm and apparently a part-time comedian.  Who is he trying to kid?  Recreational?  Were all these 80 year old men supposed to use Viagra for PROcreational purposes?  Come on!

Looking at this article a little bit further, and as a medico I began to feel more and more that I was being manipulated by the drug companies.  This has become an increasing ploy of the pharmaceutical industry of late.  Produce a demand in the general public and the doctors have to go along to write prescriptions to fill an apparent need.  Meanwhile the drug company profits go through the roof.

The correct way to introduce any new drug is to fully test it, put the reports of the tests into the medical journals (not the popular press) and have their reps detail the doctors so that the medical profession can decide how and when this medication should be used.  When the demand is coming from the patient, this is not the best way for either the patient or the profession.

I tend to look back at the other “wonder drugs” that the drug companies have released in this way.  Take Prozac for example. The newspapers were running articles on this drug before it appeared in the legitimate medical press.  Again this produced a demand (and expectation) in the general public before it was proven to work in clinical practice.  Do not get me wrong – it is not a bad drug, but it is not the panacea for all depressive ills.

No, I tend to be very skeptical of these breakthroughs that the patients tell me about, rather than the other way around.  There are no real wonder cures, I’m afraid.  Even Viagra has had more than a few drawbacks – especially when used for “recreational purposes” and thank you Jack Lamberton!

Of course the other trick to give these articles some legitimacy is the quotation from some specialist in the field.  However, read further down and you find that the specialist was in the employ of the drug company.  Or even more sneaky, the testing was being bankrolled by Big Pharma.  With new drugs having the potential to make billions for the parent company, no wonder they want the medical profession to prescribe it.

Your protection against this?  Stick with ethical practitioners prescribing ethical medications from ethical pharmacies.  Patients sometimes complain at the cost of meds from my hospital.  That’s the price of getting the real thing.