Bioethics Blogs

Life Enhancement Pills: Did you take yours today?

Who decides when a problem is worthy of clinical attention?
Symptoms may prompt individuals to seek medical attention, but part of this recent
review of the Prozac revolution (
)in the US suggests that public perception of medication for some problems was
launched into a new era when Prozac hit the market in 1987. Truly revolutionary
in its ability to target serotonin in order to treat depression, the additional
impact of rolling out Prozac was the perhaps unintended consequence of marketing
drugs to address issues which enhance people’s daily life.

Has a new class of patients been created – those with
concerns that fall within a normal range – who can now treat something with a
prescription which heretofore was accepted as part of the aches and pains of
regular life? If a drug can treat it, perhaps it is now a problem. The examples
offered in this NYT piece include thinning eyelashes, heartburn, and erectile
dysfunction medications – all advertised as brand name items. My own favorite
is the marketing of medication to treat Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder showing
a woman angrily searching for her car keys and suggesting someone else in the
residence knows where the keys are hiding. This could be most of us (male or
female) on any given morning.  Not to
disparage the unpleasant experiences of individuals who find such experiences
troubling, it seems worth noting that these seem to be issues for the “worried
well”- those who are basically healthy, but are not satisfied with their daily
lived experience.

Ironically, Prozac might be just the drug to help. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.