Selling Sickness, Lots of Money made from Healthy People who believe they are Sick

How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are turning Us All into Patients

image of Selling Sickness book
A lot of money can be made from healthy people who believe they are sick… by @AKECassels

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. Thirty years ago, Henry Gadsden, the head of Merck, one of the world’s largest drug companies, told Fortune magazine that he wanted Merck to be more like chewing gum maker Wrigley’s. It had long been his dream to make drugs for healthy people so that Merck could “sell to everyone.” Gadsden’s dream now drives the marketing machinery of the most profitable industry on earth. Drug companies are systematically working to widen the very boundaries that define illness, and the markets for medication grow ever larger. Mild problems are redefined as serious illness and common complaints are labeled as medical conditions requiring drug treatments. Runny noses are now allergic rhinitis, PMS has become a psychiatric disorder, and hyperactive children have ADD. When it comes to conditions like high cholesterol or low bone density, being “at risk” is sold as a disease. Selling Sickness reveals how widening the boundaries of illness and lowering the threshold for treatments is creating millions of new patients and billions in new profits, in turn threatening to bankrupt health-care systems all over the world. As more and more of ordinary life becomes medicalized, the industry moves ever closer to Gadsden’s dream: “selling to everyone.”


Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath, and David Henry give examples of disease mongering and suggest how to prevent the growth of this practice. Selling sicknes book is organized as a series of case studies, each focused on a particular drug. Each chapter explores a different aspect of drug marketing, with evidence drawn from published editorials, news reports, academic journals, and, most interestingly, original interviews with physician-spokespersons and pharmaceutical sales experts.

More Information

  • amazon book reviews.
  • Newsweek Interview with Ray Moynihan.
  • Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering, BMJ, PMC1122833, Apr 13, 2002.
  • Drug companies profit hugely from creating “diseases,” then the “cures”, CCPA, publications/monitor, September 1, 2005.
  • The Fight against Disease Mongering: Generating Knowledge for Action, PLoS Med., PMC1434508, Apr 2006; 3(4): e191.
  • Our posts tagged Alan Cassels and DrugMoney.
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One thought on “Selling Sickness, Lots of Money made from Healthy People who believe they are Sick”

  1. flu like symptoms are the body detoxing …not from any virus.
    all illness is from either toxins or vitamin deficiency from poor nutrition.
    shots can only cause illness and harm. ie. autism, sids, cancer…

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