Disease mongering means that something that isn't really a medical problem is turned into a fake diagnosis in order to trick patients and make money.
Most disease mongering results from the creative marketing minds (advertising or public relations department) of pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, or even doctors or scam artists who identify a normal body function which, even though it is normal, may be uncomfortable or undesirable - then medicalizes it. By making it sound like a medical problem that should be fixed, patients are tricked into seeking care - and of course, the drugs or devices that must then be purchased to "fix" the problem.
It is a perfect example of how the medical industry works hard to make money from the healthcare system through overtreatment.
Included in those normal human body problems are discomfort from menopause, men's failed erections, fear of death, wrinkles, balding, and others.
Some disease mongering comes from medical condition names that "warn" us that we are getting close to developing a real medical problem, like "pre-diabetes" or "pre-hypertension." Many doctors believe that (what are defined as) normal values for blood glucose (for diabetes) or blood pressure (for hypertension) have been changed in the past few years simply to raise the number of prescriptions that are written to control them. In both cases, patients might be able to improve their values through diet and exercise; they don't need the drugs pharmaceutical companies want them to buy.
Further, some of these inventions go mainstream when, for example, a pharmaceutical company can convince the FDA that one of their invented diagnoses actually benefits from a drug they already developed for something else. An example, according to many doctors, is Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder which is a name given to extreme PMS, and is sometimes treated using prescription anti-depressants.
Why is Disease Mongering a Problem for Patients?
Beyond the fact that patients are tricked into believing something that may not be true, disease mongering can cost us our health and take our money, too.
- We may be prescribed drugs that may mask symptoms, but may also create new symptoms or create conflicts with drugs we already take. That can be deleterious to our health.
- We pay for drugs or devices that won't really help us. Even if insurance covers the cost, then multiplying that payment by the thousands or millions of patients who take the drug means we end up paying for everyone who takes the drug or uses the device, even though they probably won't need it.
- For many of these "problems," especially those that are not related to aging, adjustments to lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep habits) would alleviate the symptoms.
Here is a list of diagnoses considered by experts to be disease-mongering:
- androgenic alopecia: is simply male pattern baldness
- erectile dysfunction: is a normal sign of aging, also called impotence
- female sexual dysfunction, also called Female Orgasmic Disorder: has been named by pharmaceutical companies as they attempt to produce a "female viagra"
- menopause: a stage that affects every woman who reaches her 50s and grows older, is medicalized as if there should be a way to control it or change it. This is supported, too, by the medicalization of pre-menopause
- Pizza Mouth Burns (yes, seriously): because a drug in the form of dissolvable strips has been developed (more information)
- PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder): an example of a pharma-invented disease that has now moved into diagnostic manuals with a drug assigned to it
- social phobia: otherwise known as shyness
- testosterone deficit syndrome: identified on TV as "Low T" - is also a normal course of a mans' aging
- wrinkles: which appear naturally as we age, are treated by injecting poison into our bodies (Botox) or by surgery
Finally, don't think that your doctor would "protect" you from being diagnosed or prescribed a form of treatment for a disease that has been invented just to sell you something. These companies market to doctors as much, or more so, than they do to patients. You've seen the TV commercials telling you to "ask your doctor." Some doctors would rather write you a prescription for a drug you don't really need simply because it's easier, and takes less time, than arguing with you.
Learn more about disease mongering:
- From PLoS (medical journal) The medicalization of treatment and disease mongering
- From The Atlantic Legal Drug-Pushing: How Disease Mongers Keep Us All Doped Up
- From PharmedOut.com Disease Mongering
- From Health News Review: Disease Mongering
- From Reporting on Health by Bill Heisel Steer Clear of Disease-Mongering Quicksand