It is well known that clinical medicines have side effects and reactions and many a time these lead to a situation worse than the original. It is also well known that the patients in terminal stages with no hope of recovery are put on ventilators till end and made guinea pigs by administering a battery of expensive and painful tests, toxic pharmaceuticals and hazardous interventions. This may feed the ego or emotional whims of the relatives, but no benefit to patients. Over utilization of the services is a national waste as well. What is less realized is the fact that normal living and natural processes of the body viz. childbirth, aging, menopause, obesity, beauty, wellness, sleeping, digestion, sexual orientation, erectile dysfunction, euphoria or depression, or even dying have become medical conditions.. Earlier doctors were blamed for this process of ‘medicalization’. Now one would appreciate that pharmaceutical and biotechnical industry, diagnostic centers, corporate, insurance companies, HMOs and the patient as consumers have become the major forces and elbowed out the doctor from the mainstream of medicalization. Direct-to-consumer advertising encourages patients to ask for particular drugs by name, thereby creating a conversation between consumer and Drug Company that threatens to cut the doctor out of the loop. And there is also widespread concern regarding the extent of the pharmaceutical marketing and incentives for prescribing, and the routine provision of “information” written by the pharmaceutical company. Thus Medicalization defines non-medical problems in medical terms, usually as an illness, and usually with the implication that a medical intervention is appropriate. Drug therapy is also moving out from treating diseases to providing enhancements to what had hitherto been seen as normal functioning. Doctors are no longer the primary drivers of medicalization.
It is often said that leading drug companies now spend more on marketing than on research and development. Undoubtedly, drug company discoveries have profoundly improved our capacity to treat illness, but pharmaceutical marketing today is more closely aligned with consumer marketing in other industries than required in medicine, and this is leading to disastrous consequences Medicines have become a new society fad. It is pretended that there is a remedy for and against everything. The market is full of performance supporting pills and tonics claiming to strengthen the immunity or defense system. The consumers of these small and multi-colored pills are not only old and ill but an increasing number of healthy and young people are regular consumers of these drugs. Often, people think it bothersome to change the life style and pills and gadgets claiming benefits of healthy diet and exercise are preferred by them. In pharmaceuticals specifically, “life style drug” marketing techniques were honed in 1980s and 1990s for cosmetic and sexual enhancements. These techniques have been broadened to include other areas of medicine. The campaigns used to market cosmetic and sexual enhancements were focused on expanding perceived need for these products, and in this respect were a simple extension
It seems easy and comfortable to solve every problem with drugs but it is at the expense of consumer and often it is useless if not dangerous. The pharmaceutical industry profits from this attitude and is the main driving force in enhancing the spectrum of medicalization if there is a genuine reason to believe that the quality of life can be improved by the medicalization of a previously latent condition, and then it is good. However excessive use of scalpel with doubtful or presumed benefits is driving the corporate hospitals’ culture. Biomedical profession is intruding upon the experience of everyday life and is doing so to increase its profit in the drug industry. Many believe that it jeopardizes Hippocratic Oath and others opine that it undermines evidence- based medicine; it also alters the prescribing habits (patient and system effects).In addiction, the label of disease or illness may attach a stigma of the individual being labeled, increasing the individual’s experience of life as “sick” or “disordered”. The role of patients in this economy has also changed. Once regarded as passive victims of medicalization, patients can now occupy active positions as advocates, consumers, or even agents of change.
Inappropriate medicalisation carries the dangers of the unnecessary labeling, poor treatment decisions, iatrogenic illness, and economic waste, as well as the opportunity costs that result when resources are diverted away from treating or preventing more serious disease. At a deeper level it may help to feed unhealthy obsessions with health, obscure or mystify sociological or political explanations for health problems, and focus undue attention on pharmacological, individualized, or privatized solutions
Are medical technologies doing more harm than good?
New panels should be assembled, free of commercial conflicts of interest, involving a much wider, and less self-interested, group of players, who would ultimately generate more credible information. There is a need for laying down protocols. It seems that we are simply suffering from powerful systems which force us to consume. Citizens should be made aware of the dangers and side effects of medicalization and how to resist the implicit and explicit forces that are generating of disposition to change our behavior. In a medical context we can shout a slogan “we consume medicine to death”. The over consumption and over-diagnosis in medicine should be challenged. There is a need for people to change their unhealthy life styles and make them willing to change their behavior and make them aware of consequences of over medicalization. Nonetheless, because of medicine’s power and prestige, and because of the obvious appeal and simplicity of medical ideas, de-medicalization succeeds only if there is strong organized public, professional and ideological mobilization which openly challenges the medical definition and management and offers a definition and management i.e. judged more practical, efficient and humane.