Well, Well, Well

Photo by Stormseeker

Not long ago the Times weekly Science section featured first-rate reporters like Natalie Angier, William Broad, Nicholas Bakalar, and Carl Zimmer. Their articles always helped extend the reader’s education. (This reader’s, anyway.) Now the Times runs a two-page spread within the Science section called “Well,” that consists of faddish advice re exercise and diet, plus Big Pharma propaganda. Recently “Well” was pushing treatment for “Social Anxiety Disorder,” which, according to “medical experts” afflicts one in five US Americans. The drug companies are using the exact same playbook they used to market Prozac for “Clinical Depression” 30 years ago. Muckraking is an exercise in futility. You can expose them dead to rights but the house always wins.

“Spot Anxiety Disorders With a Few Questions” was the inviting print-edition headline June 27. The online hed asked “When does Anxiety Become a Problem?” The article consisted of questions lobbed to the president of the American Psychiatric Association, Petros Levounis, who explained why all adults under age 65 should be screened for the medical condition formerly known as shyness. (Screening for all youngsters ages 8 to 18 was recommended by the helping professionals in 2022.)

Caron asked what people older than 65 should do about their anxiety. Levounis said they, too, should ask their doctor about treatment options. Leave no customer behind!

Ads from Pfizer and Mass General Hospital accompanied the story online.

Other “Well” stories June 27 included “From Walk to Workout,” “Advice for Soothing a Bad Sunburn,” “Tai Chi is Exercise for the Brain and Body,” “Let Children get Bored, It’s Good for Them,” and “FDA Approves Gel for Erectile Dysfunction.”

The gel, I kid you not, is called Eroxon.

Surely the 2023 award for best name of a new pharmaceutical product will go to Futura Medical for Eroxon, which contains the first two letters of erection, the last two of hard-on, and in between the rox that the customer hopes to get off. Eroxon will be sold over-the-counter, no prescription needed. The package claims that it “Treats erectile dysfunction,” is “clinically proven,” and “helps you get an erection within 10 minutes.”

The Times story announcing this blessed event was by “Well” staffers Dani Blum and Alisha Haridasani Gupta. They wrote, “The gel has a cooling and warming effect that stimulates the nerves of the penis, prompting blood to engorge the tissue, said Dr. Arthur Burnett, a professor of urology at Johns Hopkins Medicine who was involved with Futura’s trial of the gel. He called the gel safe and ‘quite appealing.’”

We infer that Dr. Burnett is in the great tradition of scientists who bravely test novel treatments on themselves.

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com