US pharmaceutical companies get creative when it comes to disorders and drugs to treat almost anything, from canine depression to female sexual dysfunction.
The American drug trade is a multi-billion-dollar business, and is only getting bigger. Meanwhile the industry has been accused of illegally pushing medicine onto the market, often endangering the lives of patients.
In the US, the most common medication prescribed for dogs is to treat aggression and anxiety disorders. Pharmacists admit that Prozac works terrifically on dogs.
Yes, there is such a thing as doggy Prozac, a beef-flavored version of the well-known “human” anti-depressant, government-approved and being proscribed by veterinarians for canines in crisis.
“There is a significant population of dogs which is really suffering from separation anxiety,” reveals veterinary behaviorist E'Lise Christensen, from NYC Vet Specialists.
The drug company, one of the largest, is banking on that. They believe up to 17 per cent of US dogs are suffering from this mental affliction. It is an idea some would scoff at, and as Christensen says “I definitely understand being skeptical.”
“Companies are desperate to keep up their profit margin, and do things to keep the margin up, even though the number of new drugs that are important in the pipeline has diminished,” argues Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research.
It turns out those companies do not need doggy drugs in order for critics to make that case. Medical researchers have crunched the numbers and found the pharmaceutical industry now tops the defense industry as the number one defrauder of the US government.
“That was a finding that I didn't expect. No one had really ever looked at it before and it shows you how out-of-control really the pharmaceutical industry really is,” Dr. Sidney Wolfe said.
In some cases it is criminally out of control, perhaps helping this industry go from selling US$40 billion to $234 billion a year in prescription drugs. Over the last two decades, companies have been cheating and endangering patients. Their biggest violations are overcharging the government by billions and illegally marketing their drugs to treat conditions for which they have not proven safe or effective.
One of the largest criminal penalties ever levied against an American corporation involved the drugs giant Pfizer. The illegal practices included essentially hiring positions despite the buzz about the drug, telling their colleagues to prescribe it for a condition it was not approved for.
And when it comes to the drug companies, disease-pushers may not be an unfair way of describing them, as well as drug pushers – that is what one filmmaker found when tracing a newly-minted disorder.
“Female sexual dysfunction itself is something the pharm industry really pushed for and had a hand in creating,” believes Liz Canner, filmmaker of Orgasm Inc.
That is the conclusion Canner came to after following the process of a drug company developing female Viagra. She says only a small number of women need it, but the company has other plans.
“Their marketing and the amount of money they’re pouring into it really says they’re trying to sell this to the whole population,” insists Liz Canner.
And with commercials for prescription drugs airing on TV in the US, companies are in a position to do just that.
With billions being made and not much to lose, critics say even in the case of crime, for this industry nothing is likely to change.
“Unless people go to jail unless the fines are much larger than they have been the companies will find that it's cheaper to cheat” Dr. Sidney Wolfe said.
Companies that stop short of nothing to find some-syndrome, someone or something new to medicate.