Drug Maker Fights for Awareness of Disorder It Can Cash In On

Shire just got FDA approval for binge eating disorder drug
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2015 7:38 AM CST
Drug Maker Fights for Awareness of Disorder It Can Cash In On
Bottles of the drug Vyvanse.   (AP Photo/Shire)

Binge eating disorder, which gained American Psychiatric Association recognition in 2013, isn't particularly well-known. That's not good for a pharmaceutical company like Shire, maker of an ADHD drug called Vyvanse, which was recently approved by the FDA for marketing in the treatment of binge eating. Lately, Shire has been working hard to spread awareness of the disorder, prompting concern from experts, the New York Times reports. Vyvanse is an amphetamine; such drugs are associated with strong potential for abuse. An eating disorder expert warns that "once a pharmaceutical company gets permission to advertise for (a drug), it can often become quite widely prescribed, and even tend to be overprescribed, and that’s a worry."

Recently, former tennis star Monica Seles has been talking to the media about her own binge-eating experiences—and she's being paid by Shire. Meanwhile, the Shire website BingeEatingDisorder.com tells possible sufferers how to discuss their concerns with a doctor, prompting worry from some who study prescription-drug abuse, the Times notes; the disease isn't common, yet the site could be read as an effort to guide people toward a diagnosis. At Slate, LV Anderson firmly agrees that the marketing practices are worrying. But she also has some qualms with the Times piece itself, writing that the disease is very real, even if the Times headline—which notes that Shire "first marketed the disease"—might seem to imply otherwise. (In brighter news, a woman grappling with an eating disorder found help from a group of strangers.)

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