It wasn’t enough for Big Pharma to pitch its poisons directly to consumers (DTC ads), hoping that they’d insist on prescriptions, whether they were appropriate or not. Now they’re marketing medical devices DTC-style, starting with stents. Maggie Mahar and Niko Karvounis provide a good discussion of the issue at Health Beat, reporting on a May 22 New England Journal of Medicine article on the topic, “DTCA for PTCA – Crossing the Line in Consumer Education?” by Drs. William E. Boden and George A. Diamond.

“Unlike a drug,” Boden and Diamond point out, “whose use merely requires an office visit to a physican and a prescription the patient can fill at a pharmacy, a specialized medical device such as a stent can be selected and implanted only by someone with a very sophisticated medical understanding that no member of the lay public could reaslistically expect to gain from a DTCA campaign.”

As ever, we see Big Pharma trying to get away with whatever it can – even to the point of deciding which drugs and treatments are “real medicine” and which are “quackery.” Have you ever wondered how it got this way? Then check out this excerpt from Dying to Get High. While the authors’ focus here is on the case of medical marijuana, their discussion extends to the more general issue of which types of medicine and therapies are considered okay and which are not. The root of the problem, as the authors so effectively show, lies in the history of the professionalization of medicine, which they present clearly and concisely in the excerpt.



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