Sunday, March 6, 2011

When Mental Health is Big Business

Mental health in America is big business.  Consider these two statistics recently released:

Antipsychotics remained the top-selling class of medications in the U.S., with 2009 prescription sales of $14.6 billion, similar to the 2008 level.(1)

 Antidepressants became the fourth-largest class in 2009, up from its #5 ranking the prior year, with U.S. prescription sales growth of 4 percent to $9.9 billion.(1)
So, between antipsychotics and antidepressants Americans are feeding pharmaceutical companies almost $25 Billion a year.  There are a lot of reasons this is an outlandish amount.  The pharmaceutical companies
claim that they need all this money so they can continue to do research and development on new drugs.  The fact is, however, that far more of their expense involves marketing.  Between direct advertising to potential customers online, and via TV and print media, and paying sales representatives to push drugs, and funding physician junkets to exotic locations to be sold on the newest drug budgets for marketing far outstrip R&D budgets.(2)

This amount of money being spent to lure patients into taking pills implies a deep cynicism that Americans are epidemically mentally ill.  There is a belief that everyone is in need of psychological drug support.  A great irony is that many of the side effects from these drugs cause the very symptoms and problems the drugs are intended to cure.  So if the person didn't have the symptoms they're hoping to remedy, they well could have them after starting the medication.  But, rather than tell people to avoid these medications, the typical advice is to give ANOTHER psychiatric medicine to counteract the side effects of the first one.

If this weren't enough, the indications for prescribing these powerful medications are not objective symptoms like chest pain indicating a heart problem.  No, these medications are prescribed on a committee's recommendations on what behaviors constitutes a particular mental illness.  The committee makeup frequently includes pharmaceutical representatives, either acting directly or as consultants to members of the committee.

While there are mental illnesses that are severe enough to warrant relying on drugs to maintain any quality of life, this is not what the majority of people have.  Natural approaches are extremely effective, and they have none of the side effects that the drugs carry.
(1) IMS Health Reports U.S. Prescription Sales
(2) Carlat, Daniel J., Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry - A Doctor's Revelations about a Profession in Crisis, Free Press, c. 2010.

No comments: