|Very pretty, but do they work?|
Titled 'La fabrique des malades', the book denounces "drugs marketing", a worldwide phenomenon which has found lucrative profits in France in recent years. Marketing drugs is by no means a novelty of course, but Boukris offers an insight into some of the more aggressive and abusive marketing strategies that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies in recent years which play on patients' fears.
One tactic consists of developing and testing new molecules before going on to analyse the results and redefine the characteristics and seriousness of pathologies accordingly to suit the molecules' levels of efficiency and adaptability. In other words, instead of developing drugs to combat illnesses, they are doing the complete opposite and inventing new illnesses in order to sell drugs they have already invested in and developed.
Mental illness and depression are the two prime targets of this practice due to the relative lack of knowledge and agreement by specialists on which symptoms constitute which pathology, or even if some of them exist. Hence the myriad definitions of various types of mental illness and depression which have sprung up over the last 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry but which are not defined as such by either medical authorities or researchers. There are drugs for all kinds of 'new' states of anxiety, hyperactivity, stress and other disorders.
Another bankable market is long-term illnesses such as diabetes, various chronic illnesses, sexual dysfunction, metabolic conditions (chloresterol etc), hypertension, arthrosis and the menopause.
These conditions and others all offer the possibility of inventing sub-conditions, and thus we have a market which has invented a whole subset of 'pre' drugs for pre-diabetes, pre-sexual dysfunction and pre hypertension, arthrosis and menopause. Then there are the 'high' and 'low' risk categories as well as others for 'mild', 'severe' and similar level of illness or pathology. It's a bit like all these shampoos for a zillion types of hair. Daft really and I just use P'tit Dop vanilla flavour, or banana, to wash not only my body, which it ws designed to do, but also my hair. Pfffttt...
It doesn't finish there though because it is estimated that the constant bombardment of new illnesses and drugs has led to patients becoming more anxious or even depressed about the seriousness of their condition and which drugs to take, making them more likely to turn to anxiolytics and other mood-altering drugs. In other words, the patient may find himself in a vicious circle of real or imagined conditions being treated by drugs which may or may not be efficient.
France, as a country that takes more drugs and medicines pro rata than any other country in the world, is naturally more vulnerable to these tactics than most, and indeed, the French didn't even need to wait to have 'new' illnesses and drugs thrust upon them because they have been inventing them for years. One well-known example is the 'crise de foie' ('liver crisis'), which is really no more than a hangover, having eaten too much for too long, or a combination of both. There are perfectly adequate treatments for both but doctors still accept to see people who make appointments for a 'crise de foie.' Needless to say, and to get them off their backs, many doctors prescribe packets of products with 'crise de foie' printed across them. Whatever happened to aspirin or paacetamol, alka-seltzer, drinking lots of water, resting and promising never to drink so much again?
Much more serious though is the ever more prevalent 'mal d'être'. It's difficult to translate but I'll try, with 'anxiety about one's life and future'. This pseudo-'condition' is trotted out my millions of people every year who are sent away by doctors with a prescription for some weak drug to treat the real problem, which is depression. But depression being a taboo subject in France........
As if that wasn't bad enough, the French healthcare system also pays part of the costly bills of those millions of people who are prescribed thalassotherapy in an attempt to cure everything from acne to arthritis and sterility. Thalassotherapy is an enormous business based on principles of treatment which have absolutely no evidence to prove their efficiency, but so strong is the belief in its effectiveness (and, perhaps, the prospect of a week's free holiday in a nice part of France) that it's not going to disappear anytime soon.
Although some of the more flagrant abuses of drug denomination have been made illegal, as has the sale of some drugs which have been found to be ineffective, France still represents a massive market for pharmaceutical companies. And as not everyone believes in modern medicine, France is also a major market for quack remedies and treatments, all kinds of bogus psychologists, and a host of herbal and homeopathic cures.
In other words, it looks like France's status as a seriously ill drug addict is not likely to change anytime soon.
(I wrote this because my right ear was blocked with wax a week ago. That happens every ten years or so, no big deal. Anyway, I went to the chemist's and asked, as usual, for ear drops and a balloon syringe for warm water. That works every time. She said "we've got this new product. It's an ear spray, you use it just two times a day, and it dissolves the wax, which disappears on its own." That sounded like a good idea (no more messy water and towel etc), so I tried it. It was totally ineffective and my ear was still blocked four days later. I mentioned this to a lady I know, who recommended ear candles. They sounded suspicious so I checked them out on Wikipedia and found that they can cause damage to your ears, burning and other problems. So I went back to the pharmacy and ordered my good old time-proven remedy of drops and warm water. My ear was unblocked two days later.........)
I mean, who needs all this gunk junk medicine? Sheesshhhh.....