Panic about Your Sleep Disorders? Or Not?

I’ve just finished reading the book Selling Sickness.  How Drug Companies are Turning us all into Patients, by the respected Australian health writer, Ray Moynihan and Canadian researcher Alan Cassels.  And although there wasn’t a chapter in the book on sleep disorders (unfortunately), many of the observations made and researched in the book could related to the medicalisation of sleep disorders too.

Certainly our readers who have difficulty sleeping because of depression would find it very relevant.

It was a quality read, which I would recommend to anyone interested in health, and particularly relevant if you are taking medications for depression, ADHD, cholesterol reduction, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, female sexual dysfunction, social anxiety disorder, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, menopause…

By ‘quality’ I’m talking about well researched, with significant, detailed notes in the back of the book, substantiated arguments, quotes from the original studies and experts, and detailed information on what companies and experts have sponsored or financed studies, and contributed to the research around certain drugs, etc.

When is a vested interest apparently not a vested interest (ahem!) – all that stuff!!! And what about the methods used to influence doctors?  The sort of information I know that you guys/girls are looking for when you read our blog.

I hope the authors won’t mind me making these quotes below.

And it even has a few wicked moments that I found amusing, you might too!  In amongst other stuff that is totally infuriating and will really *&%$ you off!

So here are some quotes from this wonderful book that might spur you on to read it.  And I DO recommend you read it, so that you can appreciate the full story, not just some of the juicy bits I’ve picked out here:


“In the case of the new anti-depressants, the gap between the commercial messages and the scientific view has become frighteningly wide, with the benefits of these drugs far more modest, and risks far more serious, than a decade of promotion has suggested.  According to independent analysis of the clinical trials – almost all of which have been funded by their manufacturers – on average the advantages of these anti-depressants over placebo or dummy pills are modest at best, yet their side effects can include sexual problems, severe withdrawal reactions and an apparent increase in the risk of suicidal behaviour among the young.  Somewhat ironically, part of the marketing of these new antidepressants has played directly on fears that suicide could result if a young person’s depression was left untreated…..  Importantly, the scientific evidence doesn’t point to an increase in actual suicide, rather, suicidal thinking and behaviour.”  Pp 24-25.

Now there’s something to get depressed about!

Attention Deficit Disorder

“Yet it is not just with controversial conditions like ADD where we are arguably squandering billions medicalising and treating the symptoms of normal life.  With much more established ‘diseases’ like high blood pressure there are very lively debates about whether this is a condition at all, or simply one risk factor for future illness, and whether too many people are being given a medical label, and an expensive drug, when for some avoiding both may be much better for their health and the public’s purse.” Page 81.

And my favourite wicked medical paper has got to be from from psychologist Dr Leonore Tiefer, a clinical associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, and founder of the global campaign that is challenging the current medicalisation of women’s sexual difficulties:  “Not tonight dear, the dog ate my testosterone patch”.  Beats the hell out of telling them you’re just plain exhausted!

Reminds me of another funny ‘no man has ever been murdered while doing the washing up or taking out the trash…’

Sorry guys, couldn’t resist…

So the book, in my opinion, might help you relax a bit about including a few bad nights’ sleep in the definition of sleep disorders!

And we all know that when we worry and get more anxious about labelling our insomnia with some alarming name that it is NOT going to help us relax and fall asleep faster.

I’m even looking sideways at the trendy expression “take a chill pill” – well, NO, actually – no pill at all just yet.

How about waking up about sleep instead?

Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients