This interesting article on disease mongering and medicalization is part of an ever-growing chorus of concerns and outrage against pharmaceutical multinationals that corrupt doctors and science while fabricating and misrepresenting disease. As in many other articles of this kind, we read about the company-backed disease mongering, fabrications on disease and on the present and future social cost – to say nothing of the physical and mental damage of the victims and the immense cultural damage suffered by a generation that is obsessed with health to a degree that is pathological.
This and many other articles of this kind, however, seem to have something in common other than their disdain against Big Pharma: these articles tragically miss the most important target.
The title of this article is explanatory enough: “Disease Mongering / Medicalization: A wasteful threat to public health”. There is a profound difference between public health as the general well-being of the people and Public Health as institution – but often the two meanings are confused and enmeshed into one.
What seems to be missed all the time is that today, unfortunately, Public Health IS the fear and disease mongering and medicalization medium. In other words, Public Health is not the victim but the perpetrator. That is because, to an overwhelming extant, Public Health has become Big Pharma. The milestone shift started in the mid-Sixties, when the US Surgeon General issued the famous 1964 report on the "dangers" of smoking. At that time multifactorial epidemiology, which by definition cannot establish causality and thus is not science, was elevated as the base for national and social policies.
In 1964 a milestone point was established in the degradation of culture and civilization: what might be on the grounds of undemonstrated (or undemonstrable) speculations became what is. This point (which is at the basis of the infamous Precautionary Principle) cannot be overstated. It is like stating that a man accused of murdeing his wife on the grounds of vague, circumstantial evidence (i.e.: "everybody knew that he hated his wife") is to be executed just in case he is the killer, and because "it makes sense" that he is. The rest was downhill into the abyss: junk science was used for fabricating millions of alarms – thus regulation and prohibition — and behind those alarms almost always looms the spectre of the pharmaceutical multinationals.
Today, those corporations are so powerful and influential that they run Public Health all over the world as if it was a marionette endowed with an endless supply of public money. The pharmaceutical multinationals use the public money available to Public Health so that the institution does the base fear mongering and indirect marketing for Big Pharma. For example, pharmaceutical patches to quit smoking follow Public Health’s fraudulent campaigns against the habit; drugs to lose weight follow Public Health’s fraudulent campaigns against fat people – and so on. And let’s be careful not to invert cause and effect: the pharmaceutical industry is not just an opportunist jumping on board of a Public Health “alert” bandwagon. Big Pharma is pulling Public Health’s strings so that it sounds the “alarms” so that BP can be an opportunist!
In the fight against Big Pharma we have to be sure not to fight a virtual image, but the real thing. While there is no question that Big Pharma, as an industry, is far more corrupt than Big Tobacco ever was, it is equally clear that Big Pharma per se is not the real problem. The real problem is the corruption – and corruptibility – of the public health institutions, who use their authority and credibility to con the people and to prepare them for the Big Pharma marketing.
The corruption of of the institution is so deep that it has even developed an ideology of its own, based on the notion that fraud and misinformation is moral as long as it is said that it’s for the good of the people. Such level of corruption cannot be fixed or reformed. The institution must be politically destroyed and rebuilt on very tight tracks, subject to constant checking and verification directly by the people – not by bureaucratic committees on the take, or doctors who wait for no better opportunity than enjoy lavish rewards in exchange for an easy diagnoses.
Yet, Public Health is still put on a lofty pedestal as the perfect, honest and clean institution whose word is gospel. It is reachable only by the gods of medicine (but it is paid for by the people), and it must be “defended” against Big Pharma. Baloney.
In the last analysis, fighting Big Pharma may be useful, but it’s a fight against an effect rather than a cause. It is very much like fighting prostitution: punishing the john may be spectacular, but it is the whore that spreads the disease.