Couch potato drugs

November 1, 2007
Gurminder Marwaha
Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Volume 19, Issue 11

Some people claim the statins are so effective and that their cholesterol has dropped to a point where they can "supersize" their burger and chips every time they visit a fast food outlet

Unless you've had your head buried in the sand for last 10 years, you'll know that there is a dearth of blockbuster drugs in the pipeline. But many manufacturers are now switching their attention to so called lifestyle drugs as they seek to cash in on "behavioural" disorders. In today's competitive market, there are enough people in developed countries willing to pay a premium price for such treatments, but is it really doing the patients any good? Well in some cases, no.

Gurminder Marwaha

Take, for example, statins. These form a class of hypolipidemic agents, used as pharmaceutical agents to lower cholesterol levels in people with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease. Of course, your medical practioner should encourage a cholesterol-lowering diet and increased exercise before proceeding with a course of statins.

And herein lies the crux of the problem, because along with global warming and taxes, one thing is certain — people in the western world are getting fat. Not just "a little more around the middle", but dangerously obese. Today's lifestyle does little to promote eating healthy and exercising, and does plenty to advocate junk food, ready meals, video games and other things associated with the couch potato culture. Perhaps drug manufacturers have been too effective, because now you can simply pop an over-the-counter pill from the comfort of your sofa, which will lower your cholesterol within a week of treatment. Some people claim the statins are so effective and that their cholesterol has dropped to a point where they can "supersize" their burger and chips every time they visit a fast food outlet.

The danger is, of course, that you are doing yourself more harm than good by taking such medication while continuing to eat badly and not exercise. Perhaps manufacturers and doctors need to highlight the associated behavioural issues more when promoting their particular brand of lifestyle drug. Then again, have we reached the point where people would rather take a tablet than go for a jog and eat a balanced diet? A survey by the British Heart Foundation (www.bhf.org.uk) only reinforces the message that many of us do little or no exercise. Maybe we need a pill that encourages us to get off our backsides?

Gurminder Marwaha gmarwaha@advanstar.com