Friday, March 23, 2007

The drug we've all been waiting for

Artist Justine Cooper has a sideline: drug development. She also handles all marketing for her invention, the new blockbuster medication Havidol. Check out the website: it's a provocative (and amusing) commentary on the medicalization of discomfort in America.

Joking aside, there are some serious ethical questions here. Drugs are available now for a range of "syndromes" and "disorders" that used to be considered part of life. Not our favorite part, maybe, but not the end of the world. Today there are medications for Restless Leg Syndrome. Some argue that many little boys who are being given drugs for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder are, in fact, healthy little monsters whose unruliness is developmentally appropriate. Treatment is also available for Idiopathic Short Stature.

Where should we draw the line? Is medicalizing such "disorders" beneficial to patients? Or mainly to pharmaceutical companies? And which came first: the drug or the disorder?

Hint: the site is a bit like the Harry Potter books. . . try saying the unfamiliar words out loud.

Hat tip: The Scientist.

3 comments:

davegkugler said...

There was an pretty interesting article a while back in Wired Magazine about Metabolic Syndrome (i.e. obesity, et al). The logic was quite similar: is this a "disorder," or nothing more than a combination of our genetic predispositions and lifestyle. The article was called "the Thin Pill" and talked about obesity, which is a little more of a problem in the states than some of the ones you mention. A similar case though. They took an interesting perspective, or rather, their presentation was interesting as it discussed the problem from the perspective of the patient, a doctor / researcher, and the pharmaceutical industry. Makes for a good read.

Funny link, though, thanks. =]

Trisha said...

I tend not to want to take new medications for something unless I really truly need it and/or the drug has been around and tested for a long time.

I have to say though - if you haven't experienced Restless Leg Syndrome before - it can be pretty bad. I had it for a while, but it turned out to be caused just by some eye drops I was using for allergies. I stopped using it and it went away. But sometimes it got pretty bad. When it is bad it feels kind of maddening and makes it nearly impossible to sleep. If someone had it really bad and couldn't get rid of it any other way, I can't blame them for wanting to try some sort of medication for it. Some conditions may seem trivial until you actually experience them.

Emilie Clemmens said...

Yes, yes, yes, THANK YOU, Trisha! I have posted on this blog before about Restless Leg Syndrome, which nearly every woman in my family has experienced.

Listen, people, I know it sounds wacky, like some silly made-up disease, but believe me, once you experience it, you will not wish it on your worst enemy. It's just downright awful. Not horrifyingly painful, but more like insistent, keep-you-wide-awake, creepy-crawly torture.

So...like many other "syndromes", though, are we overselling it? Sure. Absolutely. Just like there are certainly children who benefit from ADHD medication, there are thousands of others who are overmedicated and simply in no need of these drugs. Selling the disease instead of selling a cure? Drug before disorder? Yep, absolutely.