Are CME providers being used by the pharmaceutical industry to legitimize a treatment for a condition that isn’t really a disease? Did GlaxoSmithKline “invent” irritable bowel syndrome in part by underwriting CME on the subject? These uncomfortable questions have been raised in a new article appearing in the April 13 issue of the British Medical Journal.

A lot of money can be made from healthy people who believe they are sick. Pharmaceutical companies sponsor diseases and promote them to prescribers and consumers, assert the authors of this new paper. Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath, and David Henry give examples of "disease mongering" and suggest how to prevent the growth of this practice.

“Some forms of medicalising ordinary life may now be better described as disease mongering: widening the boundaries of treatable illness in order to expand markets for those who sell and deliver treatments,” say the authors. “Pharmaceutical companies are actively involved in sponsoring the definition of diseases and promoting them to both prescribers and consumers. The social construction of illness is being replaced by the corporate construction of disease.”

Click here to see a short version of the article.