Rant of the Week

Seraphim, Sarafem


Lying, scheming, scoundrels!

Eli Lilly is the drug company that makes "Prozac".   Prozac, used to treat depression, is patented, which means Eli Lilly can charge a fortune for each prescription because nobody else can make or sell it.   Unfortunately-- hold the tears-- the patent on Prozac expires in August of 2001.   Hold the tears. 

Prozac is one of those wonder drugs that doctors love to prescribe to people who come in and say they are tired and depressed and sad and unhappy and tired and don't enjoy their lives and are miserable and unhappy and tired and so on and so on and since the doctor doesn't have the time, ability, or inclination to make the person's life any better-- to find them better jobs or spouses or children or neighborhoods or families-- he prescribes a happy pill, which alters the basic chemical balance in the brain-- well, it makes you happy.  Like pot, except legal.  And about $100 a month, which, frankly, makes pot look like value for the dollar.

But-- hold the tears-- soon anybody will be able to make a drug called "Prozac" and will be able to sell it for less than Eli Lilly.  Lilly, one of the most profitable corporations on the face of the earth, will have to actually begin charging something close to what it actually costs to make the drug, plus a little profit.  

Prozac earns Lilly about $2 billion a year.  I'm not kidding.   I'm not exaggerating.  The Washington Post said it:  $2 billion!  A year!  What's a greedy corporation to do, especially after all it's contributions to election campaigns have failed to save it's patent!

Well, by golly, never underestimate the imagination and creativity of the drug dealers.  The "legit" drug dealers, I mean.  Eli Lilly has just introduced a new drug-- Sarafem-- and a massive advertising campaign to designed to convince you that you're sick even if you aint.  And low and behold-- holy pharmaceuticals, Batman!-- Sarafem, in cute little pastel colours, is nothing other than-- hold those tears!-- Prozac, relabeled and packaged!

Sarafem is for women suffering from PMDD.  You don't know what PMDD is?  You don't?!  Shocking.  How could you not be aware of an illness that is so absolutely scientifically proven  that is has an official acronym?     Read the magazines!  Watch television!  See your doctor!   Ask her if you might be suffering from PMDD.

PMDD is "PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder".  That's right.   Phew.  First of all, breathe a sigh of relief if you are a man.  Since you aren't as likely to stuff yourself full of chemicals in the first place, you can relish another opportunity to save yourself some money, because "Sarafem" costs as much as the old patented Prozac-- about $100 a month.  It is reported that women take Sarafem every day. 

Every day!   I find that stunning.  Prozac is not a little pep pill or aspirin.  It is a powerful psychotropic drug.  And doctors and the pharmaceutical industry just blithely go about trying to persuade as many normal young women as possible to tamper with their brains.

Well, by golly, why does it cost so much?  I'm glad you asked.   If Prozac is no longer a patent medicine after August 2001 and anybody can make it....! 

Ah-- the loopholes!  You see if an existing drug can find a new application, the patent on the new application of the existing drug can continue, in this case, until 2007!   So while anybody can make and market "prozac", only Eli Lilly can make and market Sarafem. 

Yahoo!  Now all we need to do is find an illness! 

Now how do you find an illness?  Well, in the United States, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) sort of officially defines mental illnesses.   It puts out this huge book called the "DSM" which is like the Bible of mental health.  You might remember a few years ago that the DSM has decided that   energetic two-year-olds are afflicted with a mental illness.  Most parents have the good sense to know that their child is merely a two-year-old.  But, hey, where's the profit in that?  And do "most" parents really know this?   The statistics on the use of Ritalin do not encourage this assumption.

The importance of the DSM is that insurance companies use it to determine whether or not they will pay for treatments.  If it aint listed, it aint covered.  Of course, it is then in the interests of the health industry to ensure that almost everything is listed, so that therapists, doctors, and pharmacists can be paid.

In other words, what the DSM has actually become is a shopping catalogue of real and imagined complexes.

Anyway, we have women with periods.  Periods, by all accounts, are uncomfortable and annoying.  In short, they sometimes make women feel bad.  Now, most people accept that PMS exists-- a kind of moody irritable stage of the monthly cycle just before the period-- and that drugs that alleviate the feelings of bloatedness and... whatever.. make some sense.  Some. 

But even the DSM doesn't believe that PMDD really exists.  It is listed in the appendix as a condition that is "under evaluation".  That doesn't stop Eli Lilly from running advertisements that suggest that that lousy feeling you have while pushing a heavy shopping cart in an ugly grocery store with three kids screaming at you for candy can actually be blamed on an official, registered, scientifically validated "disorder".  See your doctor.  Women do.   They see the ad, they see their doctors, their doctors prescribe, Eli Lilly gets rich.

How can they get away with this?  Well, the good old Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. has decided that Lilly's opinion matters more than the DSM's.   It has approved Lilly marketing the drug for a non-existent disorder.

What we have here is something that, like Hyper Attention Deficit Disorder or Hyper Disorder Attention Deficit or whatever it's called, defines normal but unpleasant conditions as a "disorder".  That is the dream disease for the drug companies because everyone has it.  We have a limitless number of potential customers.  All we need to do is convince them that they're sick.  And Sarafem advertises itself as the only official remedy for PMDD.

What we need are ads that show the same external conditions that the Eli Lilly ads show-- tired women, ugly stores, muzak, incoherent labels, over-priced candy, noise, dust, rude clerks-- with a text that runs:  "Does your life stink?   Try changing your life."  One thing you could do is join an organization that fights companies like Eli Lilly.

And hold the tears.

Copyright 2001 Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.

Copyright 2001 Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.



All Contents Copyright Bill Van Dyk
 2001 All Rights Reserved