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Celebrity-endorsed ADHD "educational ad" spreads Big Pharma disease mongering across internet

Friday, September 22, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: ADHD, disease mongering, corporate ethics

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On Tuesday, NewsTarget reported that an ad for the ADHD medicine Adderall -- endorsed by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" star and ADHD sufferer Ty Pennington -- was being prominently displayed on Amazon.com's home page, and invited visitors to participate in a "Amazon survey" to determine how much they knew about the condition. Now, internet giant America Online has followed suit.

This week, visitors to the AOL homepage had a good chance of seeing Pennington's somber face next to a proclamation identifying Sep. 20th as "ADHD Awareness Day." Health advocate Mike Adams says what visitors to the site should really be made aware of is that these efforts are classic disease mongering campaigns where drug companies attempt to sell more drugs by inventing a problem requiring "treatment" with pharmaceuticals.

"When the ADHD drug pushers use the term 'awareness,' what they really mean is 'disease mongering,'" says Adams, referring to his term for the practice of inventing diseases -- or expanding the requirements for disease diagnosis -- in order to label more consumers "sick" and make money from their subsequent treatments. "The only way they sell more drugs is to convince people they have a disease that requires medication.

"The whole thing, of course, is a fraud based on junk science, and companies like AOL and Amazon.com are doing consumers a great disservice by allowing these predatory advertisements to run."

The ad for ADHD awareness day links to a page where consumers can engage in a live chat with ADHD experts, sponsored by Adderall distributor Shire. They can also watch a previously recorded webcast interview with Pennington discussing his experience with ADHD, and of course, Adderall.

The ad notes that the experts on call will not be able to dispense medical advice, but can answer questions about ADHD. Since the ad does not mention Adderall specifically, there is no information about the amphetamine's serious side effects, including addiction, stomachache, headache, sleep problems, and pathological smiling, laughing and crying -- known as emotional liability -- in children. Other ADHD drugs, such as Ritalin, have also been linked to deaths due to cardiovascular complications.

Adams says he takes issue with companies such as AOL and Amazon.com associating themselves with the direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs, as even the over-the-counter equivalents can be hazardous, and doctors have reported that they tend to prescribe whatever brand of drugs patients ask for. Adams also blasts the corporate giants and the drug industry for disguising their profit-driven ads as public education campaigns.

"Big Pharma is invading the internet, and they're pushing drugs under the guise of education," he says. "But this isn't education, it's classic commercial marketing of dangerous drugs."

As of press time, AOL had not responded to requests for a statement regarding the ad and their support of direct-to-consumer drug marketing.

Doctors usually diagnose people with ADHD when they are hyperactive, impulsive, and have trouble forming and nurturing social relationships, but Adams points out that these diagnoses are often tossed around without any consideration of mitigating factors, such as poor nutrition. Recommending nutritious foods that promote physical and mental health, Adams points out, is not a profitable move for Big-Pharma-sponsored doctors to make, adding that most doctors are not trained in nutrition anyway.

"The average doctor receives one hour -- not one credit hour, but one hour -- of education relating to nutrition throughout their entire medical school education," Adams says. "Unless you visit a naturopath or have a relatively progressive doctor who recognizes the role of nutrition in health, the average medical practitioner -- including a psychiatrist -- is likely to give you a drug and send you on your way."

There is no medical test for ADHD, and there is no physiological process of degeneration or disease that ADHD proponents can point to. This is a "disease" that's based purely on opinion, and the ADHD disease label is simply thrust onto an adult or child after a doctor or psychiatrist observes their behavior and decides, in their own opinion, that the patient has this "disease."

As with the previous ad at Amazon.com, Adams encourages the public to take a stand against the ADHD publicity campaign by contacting AOL and asking them to remove the ad. A satisfaction survey concerning the ad can also be found here.


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