Selling Sickness

How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us All into Patients

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Book Review in Booklist, Chicago Illinois


Moynihan, Ray and Cassels, Alan. Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients. July 2005. 272p. Thunder's Mouth/Nation, $26 (1-56025-697-4).>i 5.

Science and medicine writers Moynihan and Cassels conjecture that most Americans believe, based on information gleaned from a deluge of pharmaceutical-company advertisements, that conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, menopause, and chronic constipation are bona fide diseases. They quote reputable medical experts, however, who refute such understandings.

What's more, they suggest that billions of precious and diminishing health-care dollars~ are squandered treating those nondiseases of healthy, wealthy Americans and would be better spent treating the legitimately sick poor and fighting the international AIDS epidemic. Quoting former Merck CEO Henry Gadsen-who, in a 1976 Fortune article, confessed that "it had long been his dream to make drugs for healthy people. Because then, Merck would be able to `sell to everyone"-they lay the blame for the misdirected billions at the feet of just such pharmaceutical giants as Merck. Finally, they counterpoint glossy pharmaceutical ad campaigns with alternatives that consumers may consider before asking their doctors for prescription drugs they saw touted on TV. -Donna Chavez