Prevention pills

Big PHARMA used to earn the big bucks by developing therapeutic drugs that people desperately needed. Major breakthrough drugs like metformin.

Now the game has changed. Think Medicare Part D that guarantees the U.S. government will pay Big PHARMA top dollar for low-cost drugs. Big PHARMA also has powerful insiders like Elizabeth Fowler working to protect its profits.

And worst of all, Big PHARMA doesn’t just make drugs for sick people anymore. It makes them for millions of men and women who only have supposed “risk” factors for heart disease. Or supposed “risk factors” for diabetes. In fact, the industry couldn’t be happier with the more recently coined terms “pre-diabetes” and “metabolic syndrome.”

It means they can sell drugs to whole new groups of men and women: men and women who aren’t sick! Men and women with questionable connections–at best–to developing any disease.

Forget about preventing disease with diet and exercise, and stress reduction. No–Big PHARMA now prevents disease with a prescription pill!

And far too many doctors and patients are buying into this propaganda. Literally.

In the first edition of my medical textbook published 20 years ago, I warned doctors about the “medicalization” of prevention. That is, trying to pop a pill to prevent disease instead of practicing natural, proven approaches.

It reminds me of a lunch meeting I had with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on my 40th birthday. We met a wealthy donor for lunch to discuss the health education foundation Dr. Koop and I had established.

The donor spoke in between puffs on a cigarette (this was down South) while slathering mayonnaise on his cheeseburger and ketchup on his French fries. With nary a green in sight.

He openly wondered why a “smart” guy like me spent my time and effort on something like health education. Given the two-faced, self-serving “public service” careerists we had to work with in Washington, it was a good question in principle.

He asked why I didn’t use my knowledge to develop a pill that people could take to prevent diseases, without having to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Turns out that Big PHARMA loved the donor’s idea of people taking pills to prevent disease. That way, it doesn’t have to wait around until men and women actually develop a disease to become customers.

After all, there are potentially hundreds of millions of people who are “at risk” for years before they get a disease–if ever. If you can give all of them drugs, for most of their adult lives, you have wildly expanded your “market.”

Now we have drug solutions in search of problems. While too many real medical problems are left by the wayside.


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