Monday, August 31, 2009

Better living through chemistry

Existing tests also may not be appropriate for diagnosing disorders like social anxiety and premenstrual dysphoria—the very types of chronic, fuzzily defined conditions that the drug industry started targeting in the '90s, when the placebo problem began escalating. The neurological foundation of these illnesses is still being debated, making it even harder for drug companies to come up with effective treatments.

What all of these disorders have in common, however, is that they engage the higher cortical centers that generate beliefs and expectations, interpret social cues, and anticipate rewards. So do chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, Parkinson's, and many other ailments that respond robustly to placebo treatment. To avoid investing in failure, researchers say, pharmaceutical companies will need to adopt new ways of vetting drugs that route around the brain's own centralized network for healing.

As reported in Wired, expensive drugs are failing in tests against placebo, an inexpensive non-drug. The pharmaceutical industry is in a panic. No wonder. For what these disorders have in common is that they were invented by the pharmaceutical industry in order to sell drugs. Social Anxiety Disorder used to be known as shyness, before it became a Disorder that required treatment with chemicals. It is curious that the Wired author notes that these targeting of these new disorders and the growth of the placebo problem both began at the same time, but fails to notice that a connexion might exist.

Hat-tip to Graeme Edgeler


Giovanni Tiso said...

Is there a drug you can take for shyness now?! I WANT it! Er, I mean... pretty please?

Pascal's bookie said...

Could we get 'not being out of it in the particular way that I might desire of a friday evening' defined as a Disorder please. ummm. stat.

Peter in Dundee said...

It is a pity Parkinson's was included in that list. The death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra* is not a matter under debate outside of the wilder parts of the woomeister's minds.

I even know where it is, give me a brain and I'll show it to you.

I take the point about the invention of the other 'disorders' though. The reality is that the low hanging fruit of drug amenable conditions have all been picked and there are no decent incentives for BigPharma to develop one shot vaccines, more and better antibiotics to beat the resistant bugs or the diseases of the third world like malaria. So they piss about inventing disorders they can treat with a tweak of an old or discarded drug. It is our fault for not giving them those incentives as much as it is theirs.

Paul said...

Yes, I should have commented on that. Parkinson's is a real disease. I am not sure what the author means when he says that it engages "the higher cortical centers that generate beliefs and expectations, interpret social cues, and anticipate reward," but he implies that it is on the same plane as social anxiety disorder. I know which I would rather endure.

Sorry, but I am fresh out of brain.

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