Sunday, December 27, 2009
Reitman's next "Thank You For Smoking," or How Merck Turned a Normal Condition into A Profitable Disease
Blog fodder. While breaking for tea and news (less calories than tea and croissants) I find something I want to share with my friends on facebook. Then a healthy conversation ensues. Suddenly I realize I've struck a nerve and the topic needs airing. Before I know it, I've postponed whatever I am supposed to be doing - in this case, getting my online courses up online - and I'm off and running right here.
Today, I hesitated, because my topic is not about the environment. And even though I've discussed health care reform here, this is not about politics. Not really. But it is about the power of the large corporation, and it's also about the ways in which that power has come home to roost very personally. Making it hard to say, "Gee, I wish they hadn't done that."
So, the story: Merck developed a market for a drug to treat a condition that arguably doesn't need to be treated.
My story: I am a beneficiary of Merck's consumer manipulation.
But really, am I?
Merck, according to the story, gives us a perfect (and I admit, fascinating - when you read the NPR story, you'll want to get Jason Reitman - "Thank You for Smoking" - to direct the movie) example of the power of the large corporation to use its money, influence, resources and even very questionable arm-twisting to manipulate the market to create a "need" for a product, in this case, Fosomax, a drug that slows bone loss in women with Osteoporosis and Osteopinia.
Am I still diseased?
Should I continue to take the drug?
My friend and mentor, Robyne Stevenson Turner, had this to say: "Tough call. Just because bones thin as we get older, doesn't mean we have to live with that condition. We use collagen to improve our skin tone, why not reverse the aging process with our bones. Q is would you have done this w/o the scare, but more importantly could u achieve this w/o the drugs? Would vitamins and weight bearing exercise do the same?"
I'm not sure. I suppose I will get some indication at my next bone density scan, because I've been rather spotty taking the pills this year, but I've been fairly good about the remainder of the regimin. The problem with the pills is that you have to take them weekly, in the morning before you eat. I tend to forget, eat and postpone. If I have slippage when I next get a bone density, I guess that will be some indication. Not very scientific, of course, because you'd have to control for other factors, for aging (yes, I suppose I am still aging, much as I prefer turning the clock backward) and other environmental factors. But something.
http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/publications/news/news-now/clinical-care-research/20080109bisphosphonates.html, and even esophageal cancer http://www.psa-rising.com/blog/2008/12/fosamax-linked-to-esophageal-cancer/#content. I think part of the answer to my question lies with information we don't have yet. I and millions of other post-40 women are the guinea pigs in Merck's profit-making venture. If we win, then everybody wins. If we lose, well, Merck still wins. By the time the world figures out whether the trade off between medicating Osteopinia and its side effects is worth the risk, Merck will have made money hand over fist.
I must get back to my course prep. I leave you with these closing thoughts. What Merck did makes me crazy. It's not Merck, per se. It's the way the American corporate machine manipulated the medical profession and we consumers by extension into considering something to be a disease that is not. It's the way any American corporation can create consumers out of whole cloth. It's the most dangerous form of alchemy, because it's shifted us into a nation of over-consumers. Just because it happens to be a medical product doesn't make it right. Corporate America is making decisions for us based on profit motive, and not social good.
I don't know. I think so. And yet, and yet... I wanna... I wanna... I wanna...
Full NPR article here: How A Bone Disease Grew To Fit The Prescription : NPR
More on Osteoporosis and Osteopinia here: http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/bmdtest.htm
And for those of you drinking cola (this means you, daughters and friends addicted to Diet Coke), it's a trade-off between your taste buds and your future mobility and even longevity: http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/dailcollinto.html
And while I'm at it, if your kids are drinking soda pop, here's a quote from Kern County Children's Dental Health Network (I have no idea where Kern County is. I was just looking for something succinct):
"Soft drink consumption poses a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones. Forty to sixty per cent of a person’s bone mass develops during their teenage years. When teenagers replace soda with milk, they are not providing their bodies with the necessary calcium needed for healthy bone growth and development. Not only does soda not contain any calcium, but it is high in phosphate. When phosphate levels are high in the blood and calcium is low, the body pulls out calcium from the bones to compensate. Therefore, those who drink large amounts of soda may be setting themselves up for osteoporosis and periodontitis (inflammation of the bones and supporting tissues around the teeth), http://www.kccdhn.org/stories/storyReader$152.
Oh, and one more thing. Merck has two new Osteo drugs in trials now, awaiting FDA approval. One of them, it tested against its own Fosomax and it looks better. Although it requires a shot, which is unappealing in a lot of ways, one of which is the expense of involving the doctor's office for every dose. The other is a new technology. I'll let you read it for yourself here: http://www.injuryboard.com/national-news/new-osteoporosis-drugs-show-promise-in-clinical-trials.aspx?googleid=247872
Now, finally, back to the grind.