Saturday, February 10, 2007

Trust Your Local Pharmaceutical Company

I really see no need for comment. More fun from Big Pharma, courtesy of Dr. Jay Rowen, MD.

Inventing a Disease

You've got to admire the chutzpah of the marketers at pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-SmithKline PLC. They've figured out how to increase sales for one of their most popular drugs by more than $300 million a year. All they had to do was invent a disease for it to treat.

The name of the drug is Requip. It works by regulating the brain chemical dopamine, which is responsible for controlling body movements. It's effective enough that it has become the drug of choice for doctors treating patients with Parkinson's disease.

Then someone at Glaxo had an "ah-ha!" moment. There are millions more people who suffer from leg twitches at night than Parkinson's. What if Requip became the drug of choice for them? Only problem was, "leg twitches" isn't a disease. So HMOs and insurance companies won't pay for prescriptions to treat it.

The wizards at Glaxo decided on a three-step campaign to change all that. First, they spent millions of dollars to educate the medical profession about a new disease. But not "leg twitches." No, "restless leg syndrome" sounds much more serious. And "syndrome" is almost the same thing as "disease," isn't it? Glaxo's ads in medical journals started carrying the tagline, "GlaxoSmithKline: A Leader in RLS Research."

Next, Glaxo hired dozens of "sleep-disorder specialists" to go around the country, pitching local doctors about the seriousness of RLS and the wonders Requip could work in treating it. They invited the docs to lavish meals at country clubs and four-star restaurants, with Glaxo picking up the tab. They attended by the hundreds.

Finally, Glaxo spent millions more on TV ads aimed directly at consumers, to tell them that their pain has a name - and a drug to help treat it. Before you could say "gimme some of them pills," Glaxo's sales of Requip increased by more than $300 million a year. As they say, that ain't hay.

But before you rush off to your doctor and ask him to prescribe a bottle or two of Requip for you, here's a suggestion from one of my favorite health writers. Dr. Robert Rowen, editor of Second Opinion newsletter (www.secondopinionnewsletter.com), says if you're bothered by leg twitches at night, chances are you're suffering from a potassium deficiency.

He suggests eating a banana or two before you go to bed. Or get a bottle of potassium supplements from your local health food store. You could solve your problem without spending a fortune … or taking a fancy new drug with who-knows-what side effects.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love it... "syndrome". Everyone's so eager to pop pills. Speaking of which, I bet you heard of the new diet drug just ok'd by the FDA for over-the-counter sales. Yeah, I don't suppose there'll be any unexpected side-effects with that one...
-Deb

Virginia said...

Steve,

You should hear Bill's oncolgist when she gets riled up about drug commercials. Some like Neulasta aren't even approved by the FDA for use the way they are advertised! Sends her off the deep end to have patients come in expected to be treated with a drug and having to explain why she can't.

I think the advertising should be illegal.
Gin

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!! I loved this one!!
I remember when I first saw these commercials hubby and I were cracking up, because most pregnant women have this twitching problem and the first thing we have been told is "Eat a banana!"
Keep up the great newsletters and information! I love getting them in my email and reading them here!
Liberty

Anonymous said...

Steve,
Thanks for clarifying this "mystery syndrome"! There is just a pill for everything, and nothing all at the same time, isn't there? Want to lower your blood pressure? Take an anti-hypertensive. What ever happened to sodium restriction and losing some weight? There are definately reasons for some pills, but RLS? I remember the first time I heard of that and thought "what the fetch is that?" The world truly is dependent on pills anymore...it's sad!
Kelly

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending the pharmaceutical industry, BUT a potassium imbalance can be a very serious (even life-threatening) medical problem. You CANNOT go pop a potassium pill from the store to correct a potassium deficiency. There is a very small margin of error for potassium levels in your blood and too little or too much can cause serious medical problems such as an irregular heartbeat and so forth. My mother-in-law had a pottassium deficiency that ended up with her being admitted to the hospital. Please do not encourage people to buy nutritional supplements for essential minerals (and electrolytes) without checking with their doctor or pharmacist first! We cannot diagnose and/or treat our medical problems all the time. In fact, you can do yourself more harm than good with some of the OTC drugs and nutritional supplements that our available for purchase at your local store! Take care everyone.

Tom said...

I have to spoil this party just a little. I'm a 38 year old male who is otherwise completely healthy, but I have had these "leg twitches" aggravate my life and destroy my sleep for the last decade. I tried eating bananas, I tried potassium pills. It may seem a funny little problem, but I assure you, the situation is absolute hell. Unable initially to go to sleep because my legs and arms have other ideas, and then to be jolted awake several times during the night is a terrible way to live. For what it's worth, a low dose of Requip instantly solved the problem. Instantly. It was a huge relief for me and marked a major improvement in my quality of living. Two years later and I'm still on the same low dose. No, I don't work for any drug companies!

Anonymous said...

This isn't intended to influence anyone. I am one of the few that did take a low dose as well to have instant relief on the first night. My legs shook so bad I would wake up with my bed shaking. I was on medication for hypertension, RA and an aspirin at night and really didn't want to take anymore medicine but was desperate for relief so I could get some rest. It has helped me and I am so pleased it is there for me.
I also don't work for any drug company.

steve edwards said...

The main problem isn't necessarily the drug in this case, but how it's prescribed--and marketed. Certainly there are conditions that merit its use, otherwise it wouldn't have been researched. The insidious part is the marketing hype and attempting to find "new" markets to increase profits. The reason I posted this was as a word of warning. Don't take meds without some amount of caution and thoughtfulness. Remember, they are trying to sell you something. Shop smart and make sure you need it.