Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Infinite Mind - disease awareness campaings?

As always I'm informed by Philip Dawdy and it was on Furious Seasons that I became aware of the radio show "The Infinite Mind" hosted by Fred Goodwin. According to this post the radio show reached 1 million listeners a week. You are all aware that Sen Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) went after Goodwin because he has received support of eight labs and the radio show is going off the air - read this post by Philip Dawdy.
I cannot help myself asking how is it be possible that a show on mental illness can reach 1 million listeners a week. Why on earth are people so concerned with it?
Depression is the first subject that comes to my mind. I've noticed that people are no longer sad or tired. We are depressed and stressed and both words are already part of daily vocabulary.
Words are powerful. Putting these words in circulation to describe normal feelings is of great help to turn them into diseases and make people think that there's something that could help them. Not fearing disease's name and even making them being repeated over and over again creates a culture where it's easy to believe that it's not a big deal being sick.
Almost the same has happened with bipolarity. So many celebrities are being claimed to be bipolar that the old manic-depressive psychosis lost it's sense and the division bipolar 1 and 2 is not known. Being bipolar sounds to be glamorous and cool.
I'm asking myself how many of those who have listened to "The Infinite Mind" have searched a GP or a psychiatrists because they thought they were depressed.
Perhaps "The Infinite Mind" has helped, without the intention, what it's described on "The Influence of Pharmaceutical Industry" on the topic they approach Disease awareness campaigns:

Disease awareness campaigns

247. Disease awareness campaigns encourage individuals to seek advice or treatment from their doctor for previously undiagnosed conditions. We received allegations that disease awareness campaigns can act as advertisements for prescription-only drugs, particularly where there is a particularly well-known brand of treatment.206 Such campaigns, which may be established by a drug company with or without the endorsement of a patient group or charity, often take place at the same time as the drug's launch and may involve aggressive promotion of a particular medicine to prescribers. Mr Graham Vidler, from Which? told us:

What those awareness campaigns will do is encourage the public to go and see their GP, often in quite strong terms, saying,"Go and see your GP. Be forceful. There is something that can be done." Simultaneously, the companies will be advertising specific drugs to those GPs, and … quite often it [is ] easiest for them to take the path of least resistance.207

248. Witnesses argued that the use of disease awareness campaigns, which in the past have involved conditions including depression, anxiety and obesity, play a major part in the “medicalisation” of our society; in short, “where disease awareness campaigns end and disease mongering begin is a very indistinct line ”.208 Dr Des Spence, representing the group ‘No Free Lunch', asserted that the bombardment of the general public and patients served, “to undermine our collective sense of well being”.209 Dr Spence was especially concerned about the ‘Defeat Depression Campaign ’ and its effect on prescribing patterns and the public’s perception of depression:
[That campaign ] led to us being told that a third of people were depressed, that we should screen for it, that we should start using antidepressants early, and we did. If I think back five or ten years ago, we were diagnosing large numbers of people with depression, and we were prescribing many antidepressants. As time has gone on, I have certainly begun to realise that in some ways yes, there are many people who do have depression, but lots of people are just unhappy and that is a part of life. So there is a whole generation of people coming up who almost feel that being unhappy is an abnormal state, which, of course, it is not.

249. The ‘Defeat Depression Campaign ’ (1992 –1997), which was run through the RCGP and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and sponsored by the manufacturers of antidepressants (who provided approximately one-third of the funding) targeted doctors as well as patients, in particular to emphasise that these drugs did not cause addiction or dependence.These claims have since been disputed and a warning about withdrawal symptoms is now included in the SPC.The Royal College of Psychiatrists provided supplementary evidence emphasising that the Defeat Depression Campaign had been intended to make it clear “that antidepressant treatment was not appropriate for mild to moderate depression, but effective only for severe or clinical depression ”.211 This important message evidently got lost; indeed there remains much confusion on this point today.212 The Royal College also told us it had recently reviewed its policies on accepting commercial sponsorship, and now aims to keep total income from these sources at around 5% of the College's annual turnover. Commercial sponsorship accounted for under £500,000 (5.5% on turnover of £9m) in 2003.

251. No witness suggested that all disease awareness campaigns were cynical attempts to increase drug sales, but many doubted that they were simply aimed at improving the lives of those with unmet medical needs. It is not acceptable for such campaigns to be veiled advertising for branded prescription-only medicines. (emphasis mine).

1 comment:

Bill Lichtenstein said...

I am writing as executive producer of The Infinite Mind regarding your posting on the show's audience size.

The Infinite Mind was not a mental health show. It focused on the art and science of the mind, mental wellness, neuroscience and the mind body connection.

Most of our 200+ programs over 10 years had little to do with mental health, with show topics including Satisfaction; Hearing; Body Clocks; Altruism; Perfect Pitch; Genius; Animal Companions; Multitasking; Writers' Block; and Weather and the Mind, among many others.

Guests on the program included leading neuroscientists and clinicians, as well as notable public figures, including authors John Updike, William and Rose Styron, Fran Lebowitz, Annie Lamott, Robert Bly, and Joyce Carol Oates; actors/actresses Carrie Fisher, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Edwards, Margot Kidder, and Lily Tomlin; comedians Robert Klein, Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, and Richard Lewis; batting champ Wade Boggs; former First Lady Rosalynn Carter; business writer James Cramer; mental health advocate Tipper Gore; Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; and musicians Aimee Mann, Jessye Norman, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Black Eyed Peas, and Emanuel Ax.

It was this combination of topics and guests that resulted in the program being the most listened to and honored health and science show on public radio.

Bill Lichtenstein