Lifestyle Drugs Enhance Instead of Heal: Should We Be Concerned?

An article on HealthDay News last week has illuminated some controversial issues regarding pharmaceutical companies and the increasing number of “lifestyle” drugs being brought to market.

So-called lifestyle drugs are not intended to be cures or traditional treatments. They are marketed as enhancements to address normal conditions like “inadequate eyelashes” or gray hair.

The HealthDay article names several popular medications:

Propecia (finasteride), which began as a stronger-dose drug to treat enlarged prostates, has been prescribed to treat men with male pattern hair loss since 1997; Botox — botulinum toxin — first used to calm spastic eye muscles, was approved to treat frown lines in 2002; and Latisse, initially used to treat glaucoma in the 1990s, became available in 2009 for cosmetic purposes after patients noticed they were also growing longer, thicker eyelashes.

Those who work in health policy are voicing concerns about whether these types of drugs are a poor use of resources or if they promote an unnecessary medicalization of normal, age-related conditions.

White Sands, in their practice Rehabilitation Center has noticed that for an individual, there’s little or no ethical dilemma regarding the use of medications that enhance appearance or delay the signs of aging. It’s a personal choice.

For a society however, an argument could be made that widespread medicalization of trivial body concerns may lead to mis-prioritization of society’s healthcare resources.

“People can do probably whatever they want, explains health policy professor Dr. Joel Lexchin, “but on a collective level, we have to think about whether producing drugs that enhance people is really the best use of our resources.”

The Food and Drug Administration treats all medications in “an identical manner,” whether they are designed for preventing heart failure or treating wrinkles. What the pharmaceutical companies end up producing depends on the market and the public’s demand for lifestyle drugs.

Read more on the HealthDay article by Maureen Salamon on Womenshealth.gov

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