Sex, Lies and Medical Mistakes Episode

It's been a little more than ten years since the drug Viagra was approved in Canada and the United States. The launch of that little blue pill - along with Cialis and Levitra - turned erectile dysfunction into common vernacular in our society.  Click on the link to read the rest of this blog entry.

Around the same time, a group of urologists turned their attention to sexual problems in women.  They coined the term 'female sexual dysfunction' to describe anything and everything from low libido to low arousal to inablity to achieve orgasm to pain during sex.  Until that point in time, female sexual problems were hardly the province of urologists. 

What you probably don't know is that so-called female sexual dysfunction is largely a made-up term coined with the support of pharmaceutical companies as part of an orchestrated campaign to promote interest in prescription drugs for women with sexual problems.  That's the thesis of investigative journalist Ray Moynihan and Canadian researcher Barbara Mintzes in their new book Sex, Lies + Pharmaceuticals:  How Drug Companies Plan to Profit from Female Sexual Dysfunction, published by Douglas & McIntyre.

Click here to learn more about the book.

Moynihan and Minztes make a convinciing argument that female sexual dysfunction is an extreme example of disease mongering - selling a condition in order to draw interest in a pharmaceutical drug.  In the book, the authors talk about the campaign by Big Pharma to recruit researchers as key opinion leaders to influence public and professional discourse on female sexual dysfuncition through everything from media campaigns to the publication of scientific journal articles. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the publishers of reputable peer-reviewed science journals have aided and abetted the cause of turning female sexual dysfunction into a major disorder.  For instance, in 1999, the venerable Journal of the American Medical Association published an aritcle that stated boldly that sexual dysfunction affected a whopping 43 percent of women in the United States.

Read the JAMA abstract here.

Moynihan and Mintzes devote an entire chapter to deconstruct what they describe as the genesis of a medical myth that a large proportion of women have sexual problems.

The book arrives at a time of unprecedented media interest in relations between doctors and drug companies and how that relationship affects the prescriptions you receive.

Read and listen to National Public Radio's take on the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

On this week's episode of WCBA, author Ray Moynihan joins me for a fascinating look at female sexual dysfunction as a powerful example of disease mongering.  As well, we have reaction to last week's special townhall episode 'To Err Is Medicine', plus two more excerpts from the townhall you won't want to miss.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Gardam talks about hospital infections as a major cause of preventable deaths at Canadian hospitals.  And, if you think that medical errors only happen in hospital, guess again.  Dan Faulker of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario talks about medical errors that occur in doctors' offices and clinics and what regulators are doing to prevent them.

Our power-packed episode of WCBA airs Saturday, October 23 at 11 am (1130 NT) and again on Monday October 25 at 1130 am (noon NT) on CBC Radio One.

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