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Drug firms accused of exaggerating bipolar disorder

12th April 2006

Drug companies are creating an unrealistic epidemic of bipolar disorder to boost sales, according to a leading academic.

Professor David Healy, an expert in psychological medicine at Cardiff University, will tell a 'disease mongering' conference in Australia this week that companies are inflating the prevalence of the manic depressive illness, which is thought to affect around two per cent per cent of the UK population.

The disorder, which is characterised by a patient alternating between two emotional extremes, was first officially diagnosed in 1980.

Professor Healy claims that drug companies have claimed that cases of the illness affect around five per cent of the population.

"No drug company is going to be interested in bipolar disorder, unless the prevalence of the disorder can be greatly increased," he commented.

"Adverts that encourage 'mood watching' risk transforming variations from an emotional even keel into potential indicators of latent or actual bipolar disorder."

Professor Healy's paper comes as an article in the medical journal, Public Library Of Science Medicine, claims that pharmaceutical firms are exaggerating a large number of illnesses to improve sales and that many minor complaints, such as natural symptoms of the menopause, are increasingly being "medicalised".