Sunday, October 29, 2006

Restless Legs or Tireless Marketing: Requip

Health Care Renewal has a G-R-E-A-T post about disase mongering related to restless legs syndrome.

To summarize, GlaxoSmithKline sees a market for restless legs syndrome. Unfortunately for them, the vast majority of people in American don't see a need for treatment. Enter the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation (largely funded by GSK, of course) and a few key opinion leaders in the form of physicians willing to extol the virtues of this great medication, Requip, likely in exchange for some cash. The results, if you've paid attention to this blog or similar sites, are entirely predictable. A market is created and the cash flows nicely for GSK. Of course, whether restless legs syndrome is an actual issue of significance or not is irrelevant because it's about the dash for cash, not treating patients.

Also add to your required reading list an excellent article on restless legs and disease mongering published in PLoS Medicine by Woloshin & Schwartz. In fact, let's just call this required reading. A quote from their article that sums it up nicely and simply:

"Helping sick people get treatment is a good thing. Convincing healthy people that they are sick is not. Sick people stand to benefit from treatment, but healthy people may only get hurt: they get labeled “sick,” may become anxious about their condition, and, if they are treated, may experience side effects that overwhelm any potential benefit."

You should also check out Health Care Renewal's great post below:
Health Care Renewal: Conflicts of Interest and the Marketing of Requip


Bob Onopa said...

The RLS organization was doing first class work long before Requip came on the scene, so it is entirely misleading to slander them as a tool of big pharma. Severe RLS is really awful. Dopamine agonists are the best current relief short of methadone, and even they don't full bring back health. We have to suffer for the rest of our lives. Get off our back.

CL Psych said...


You may well be correct that the RLS group was doing "first class work." I don't recall slandering anyone in the post. I am aware that funding from a drug company does not always cause an organization to become biased. In some cases, however, a bias is created in the organization's message and educational materials. I implied that the RLS organization MAY have become biased, but I don't know for sure that they did. I encourage you to read the latest article in the New Scientist on the topic to get an idea that patient advocacy groups do reflect bias at times due to drug company funding.