A CALL TO ACTION ON DISEASE MONGERING
(will be discussed at SELLING SICKNESS conference)
CALL TO ACTION ON DISEASE MONGERING
Washington, DC, February 22, 2013
We come together* as researchers, physicians, activists, advocates, patients, caregivers and journalists deeply troubled about the growing corruption of medical science and health care.
We demand an end to industry-promoted disease-mongering that manipulates health concerns and causes harm through practices that medicalise normal life and deceive professionals and the public.
Commercial imperatives are being allowed to corrupt clinical, research and marketing practices which now include hiding data, inflating diagnostic categories, unnecessary screening and treatment, deceptive marketing, faulty and biased research and publishing, inadequate oversight, a neglect of social factors and injustices, and uncritical, unbalanced reporting.
We are alarmed at how undergraduate and post-graduate professional education are based on untrustworthy “science” designed to expand markets rather than impart valid knowledge or improve individual or public health.
Hazardous practices and distorted science harm patients, waste public resources, create illness and health anxiety, hoodwink the public, corrupt knowledge, corrode professionalism, and expose everyone to unnecessary, costly and dangerous tests and treatments.
We call for a new movement of alliances and actions to ensure that:
a clear firewall is created between industry/commercial influence, on the one hand, and, on the other, the regulators of drugs and devices as well as the developers and authors of clinical practice guidelines;
direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices is much more tightly regulated or, if possible, is prohibited and effective surveillance programs created;
drugs, diagnostic tests, and devices are tested, approved, reported and marketed solely with the goal of ensuring patient safety, scientific integrity and individual and public health;
drugs and devices are tested against appropriate controls, usually the current best treatment, in appropriate populations;
unsafe or ineffective marketed products are quickly identified, their harms and inadequacies are widely publicized, and they are removed from use;
all clinical trials are registered and access to all raw clinical trial data is made available for independent analyses at least at the time of approval, but preferably before approval;
the patent system for medicines is reformed so commercial benefit does not overshadow real clinical benefits for patients;
patients and health care consumers are fully informed about and involved in individual health decisions, as well as in research priorities, research design, and regulatory policy;
human subjects participating in clinical trials are adequately protected by ethical review boards that are functioning properly, accurate and complete informed consent, and the provision of full compensation for any harms;
journalists, whose job it must be to independently vet claims made by third parties, realize the harm that is done when news stories disseminate disease-mongering sales and promotion messages in an unchallenged, unverified manner;
health care regulations, health professional training, and clinical practice guidelines acknowledge and make allowance for marginalized and vulnerable groups who may be more susceptible to harms and exploitation;
the usually less profitable non-pharmaceutical treatments and therapies, as well as disease prevention and community-centered interventions, are raised in research and publishing priority to levels comparable to drug and device therapies.
These reforms will substantially improve public health and safety in a complex world of escalating technologies and communications media, and will save money, thereby lessening pressure on individual and public budgets and private health insurance programs.
We believe the urgent threat to human health from disease-mongering requires the united and creative action of citizens and professionals.
We pledge ourselves to act, individually and collectively, to distribute and to implement the measures outlined in this statement and encourage continuing outreach to interested others.
* In conjunction with “Selling Sickness: 2013: People before Profits,” an independent grassroots conference held in Washington, DC, February 20-22, 2013.
References and Resources will be appended for the final version.