Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

The marketing of a disease: female sexual dysfunction

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7484.192 (Published 20 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:192

Marketing a disease: even more exploitation of women.

Ray Moynihan's article on the marketing of a disease, namely female
sexual dysfunction, is a trenchant comment on some unlovely aspects of the
pharmaceutical industry. The scientific basis for the existence of the
disease is controversial, as is the desirability of "treating" the
"disease" with a testosterone patch. This view was endorsed by the
advisers to the Food and Drug Administration when they recommended that
the patch should not be approved for marketing.

Mr. Moynihan feels that women are at risk of being exploited, because
they are being encouraged to take a medicine that may be unnecessary and
worse, may be harmful.

There is nothing new about this. For centuries, women have been
exploited for commercial gain, and with great success. Billions of pounds
are spent by women each year on cosmetics, perfumes and fashionable
clothes. They purchase uncomfortable shoes that imperil the health of
their feet. Vast amounts are spent on hair and skin products, encouraged
by dubious claims of restoring youthful properties. Dental entrepreneurs
offer effective but very expensive measures to beautify the teeth. In the
search for perpetual youth, collagen is injected into lips and botulinus
toxin into facial muscles. Tattooing and body piercing are expensive,
insanitary and deforming assaults on the human frame. The beauty industry
promotes the desirability - or the necessity - of possessing a perfect
figure: hence innumerable questionable diets and ever more ingenious
plastic surgery are promoted and huge profits are made.

If diets, cosmetics, hair shampoos and nonmedical dermatological
products were subjected to strict regulation, and scientifically
acceptable proof of efficacy was demanded, many such products would
disappear from the market and the exploitation of women would be
drastically reduced.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 January 2005
Alexander SD Spiers
Retired Professor of Medicine
Cookham, BERKS SL6 9TR