FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Selling Depression

The discovery that many people with life problem or occasional bad moods would willingly dose themselves with antidepressants sailed the drug industry through the 2000s. A good chunk of the $4.5 billion a year direct-to-consumer advertising has been devoted to convincing people they don’t have problems with their job, the economy and their family, they have depression. Especially because depression can’t be diagnosed from a blood test.

Unfortunately, three things dried up the depression gravy train for the drug industry. Blockbusters went off patent and generics took off, antidepressants were linked with gory and unpredictable violence, especially in young users and — they didn’t even work, according to medical articles!

That’s when the drug industry began debuting the concept of “treatment resistant depression.” It wasn’t that their drugs didn’t work (or you didn’t have depression in the first place), you had “treatment resistant depression.” Your first expensive and dangerous drug needed to be coupled with more expensive and dangerous drugs because monotherapy, one drug alone, wasn’t doing the trick!

You’ve got to admire the drug industry’s audacity with this upsell strategy. Adding drugs to your treatment resistant depression triples its take, patients don’t know which drug is working so they’ll take all of them and the defective drugs are exonerated! (Because the problem is you.)

Now the drug industry has a new whisper campaign to keep the antidepressant boat afloat. Your depression is “progressive.”

Once upon a time, when depression was neither seasonal, atypical, bipolar or treatment resistant, it was considered to be a self-limiting disease. In fact, just about the only good thing you could say about depression was it wouldn’t last forever.

But now, the drug industry is giving depression the don’t-wait scare treatment like coronary events (statins), asthma attacks (“controller” drugs) and thinning bones (Sally Field). If you don’t hurry and take medication, your depression will get worse!

“Depressive episodes become more easily triggered over time,” floats an article on the physician Web site Medscape (flanked by ads for the antidepressant Pristiq.) “As the number of major depressive episodes increase, the risk for subsequent episodes is predicted more from the number of prior episodes and less from the occurrence of a recent life stress.” The article, unabashedly titled “Neurobiology of Depression: Major Depressive Disorder as a Progressive Illness,” is written by Vladimir Maletic who happens to have served on Eli Lilly’s Speaker’s Bureau, says the disclosure information, and whose co-authors are each employees and/or Lilly shareholders.

On WebMD, a sister site to Medscape, the depression sell is even less subtle. An article called Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression, smothered with five ads for the Eli Lilly antidepressant, Cymbalta, submits, “Most of us know about the emotional symptoms of depression. But you may not know that depression can be associated with many physical symptoms, too.”

Depression may masquerade as headaches, insomnia, fatigue, backache, dizziness, lightheadedness or appetite problems mongers the article. “You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhea or become chronically constipated.” And here, you thought it was something you ate!

The danger with these symptoms says the article is that you would fail to diagnose yourself as suffering from a psychiatric problem and buy an over-the-counter drug like a normal person. “Because these symptoms occur with many conditions, many depressed people never get help, because they don’t know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. A lot of doctors miss the symptoms, too.”

But when head and backaches aren’t labeled as depression, the drug industry make no money and insurance rates could stop climbing from over-treatment with unnecessary, expensive and dangerous psychoactive drugs!

To prevent such goring of marketshare, the article (whose content was “selected and controlled by WebMD’s editorial staff and is funded by Lilly USA,” an original WebMD financial partner according to the Washington Post) counsels worry about physical symptoms. “Don’t assume they’ll go away on their own.” Symptoms may “need additional treatment” and “some antidepressants, such as Cymbalta and Effexor, may help with chronic pain, too.”

Before direct-to-consumer advertising, the health care system was devoted to preventing over-treatment and assuring patients they were probably okay. Who remembers “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning”? Now patients are assured they probably aren’t okay but probably have a progressive disease. Luckily their disease can be treated with progressive prescriptions from pharma.

Martha Rosenberg’s first book, tentatively titled Born with a Fritos Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published by Amherst, New York-based Prometheus Books next year.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail