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Drug companies “created female sexual dysfunction”

Friday October 1st, 2010

Female sexual dysfunction has been created by drugs companies as a way of building a global market for drugs, it is claimed today.

The claim has been made by Ray Moynihan, a journalist and lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, who says he has evidence that drug industry employees worked with paid key opinion leaders to help develop the disease entity.

He says they also ran surveys to portray it as widespread and helped to manufacture diagnostic tools that encouraged women to be believe their sexual difficulties deserved a medical label and treatment.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, he asserts that “drug marketing is merging with medical science in a fascinating and frightening way” and reveals that a company employee told him how the company she worked for was interested in “expediting the development of a disease”.

Industry is also taking a leading role in “educating” both professionals and the public about this controversial condition, he adds.

Although the drugs have so far failed, Moynihan warns that “the edifice of scientific evidence about the condition remains in place and creating the impression that there is a massive ‘unmet need’ for treatment.”

In an accompanying commentary, Dr Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, a specialist in psychosexual medicine from Ipswich, UK, said Moynihan’s research clarified both the conflicts of interest at work and the lack of good quality evidence for pharmacological solutions to women’s sexual problems.

“Faced with a woman in tears whose libido has disappeared and who is terrified of losing her partner, doctors can feel immense pressure to provide an immediate, effective solution," she writes.

However, she counters that "his argument that female sexual dysfunction is an illness constructed by pathologising doctors under the influence of drug companies will fail to convince clinicians who see women with sexual dysfunction, or their patients."

More studies are needed that reflect the complexity of sexual life. "It's time to invest in more research into the most realistic, respectful and evidence based treatments, rather than narrow biological ones founded on poor evidence," she says.

British Medical Journal October 2 2010

Tags: Australia | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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