Remember healthcare is an industry. It’s there to make money for Pharmaceuticals. Big money.

A lot of money can be made from healthy people who believe they are sick!

The social construction of illness has being replaced by the corporate construction of disease. With pharmaceutical companies sponsoring diseases and promoting them to prescribers and consumers.

Many disease categories informal alliances have emerged, comprising drug company staff, doctors, and consumer groups. Ostensibly engaged in raising public awareness about underdiagnosed and undertreated problems, these alliances tend to promote a view of their particular condition as widespread, serious, and treatable.

Because these “disease awareness” campaigns are commonly linked to companies’ marketing strategies, they operate to expand markets for new pharmaceutical products.

The mechanics of corporate-backed disease mongering, and its impact on public consciousness, medical practice, human health, and national budgets, have attracted limited critical scrutiny.

The authors of the article “Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering” criticise the use of fear-mongering over the creation of a positive proactive health message.

They also observe that corporate-funded information about the disease should be replaced by independent information and “de-medicalisation,” based on respect for human dignity is long overdue.

Although some sponsored professionals or consumers may act independently and all concerned may have honourable motives, in many cases the formula is the same: groups and/or campaigns are orchestrated, funded, and facilitated by corporate interests, often via their public relations and marketing infrastructure.

Alternative approaches—emphasising the self limiting or relatively benign natural history of a problem, or the importance of personal coping strategies—are played down or ignored.

Whist this medicalising of normal life for profit and corporate motives might upset you it is important to also recognise that all clinicians have to market or communicate their services and run profitable practices or they won’t be there to help those who need it.

However you can help your ideal clients who are consumers of health become more sophisticated purchasers, raising skepticism of the medico-pharmaceutical complex and starting to improve the quality of questions they ask and advice they seek. Stopping as the late medical writer Lynn Payer observed, disease mongers “gnaw away at our self-confidence.”


Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering. Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath, David HenryBMJ. 2002 Apr 13; 324(7342): 886–891.doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7342.88