PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of Queensland, B.A.
CAREER: 4ZZZ, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, journalist; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, journalist, 1986–98; Australian Financial Review, medical reporter, 2000–02; British Medical Journal, visiting editor 2003–05; Radio New Zealand, Australian correspondent for Ninetonoon (investigative journalism radio program).
AWARDS, HONORS: Human Rights Media Award; Peter Grieve Award, for excellence in medical reporting; Michael Daley Award for excellence in science reporting; Harkness fellow in health-care policy, Harvard Medical School, 1998–99; Education Award, Australian Council of Deans; British Medical Journalists' Award.
Too Much Medicine?: The Business of Health, and Its Risks for You (companion book to television series), ABC Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1998.
Evaluating Health Services: A Reporter Covers the Science of Research Synthesis, Milbank Memorial Fund (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Alan Cassels) Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients, Nation Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Writer and producer of television science documentary series Too Much Medicine, Australian Broadcasting Corporation; contributor to periodicals, including New England Journal of Medicine, Australian Financial Review, Lancet, and Sydney Morning Herald.
SIDELIGHTS: Australian journalist Ray Moynihan has received many awards for his medical and science reporting. In particular he has investigated the level of medications being prescribed, especially in the United States, and whether drugs are being marketed irresponsibly. Moynihan spent a year at Harvard Medical School studying media coverage of medical news in U.S. print and electronic media. In Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients, which he co-wrote with Alan Cassels, a health-policy researcher in British Columbia, Canada, the authors note that the United States consumes half the world's prescription drugs by cost. They also cite twenty-five billion dollars as the figure spent yearly in the United States to promote drugs, most of which is funneled through pharmaceutical representatives and promotions to entice physicians to prescribe their products.
The authors point out that, although it is claimed that some drugs reduce certain risks, the information does not go far enough. For example, they write that one blood-pressure medication claims to reduce the chance of stroke by one-third. What is not said is that for a person with no health considerations other than elevated blood pressure, the chance of dying of a stroke over a five-year period is three percent. Taking this into consideration, using the blood pressure medication would merely reduce the chance to two percent. As they note, the risks may outweigh any possible benefit. Moynihan and Cassels do not deny that there are instances when medications are important to patient treatment. However, they believe tactics like hiring celebrities to promote medications to treat the results of aging, such as menopause, are often misleading in that the consumer is not told, and may not realize, that these spokespersons are well paid to deliver a scripted message.
The coauthors also assert in their book that many conditions are created merely in order to produce a drug to treat them. Moynihan calls this "disease mongering," explained Simone Roberts in Pharmacy News, adding that the author believes branders create conditions like "social anxiety disorder" and then come up with drugs to overcome them. According to the authors, precious healthcare dollars are being wasted to treat fictitious conditions when they should be spent on legitimate illnesses and epidemics such as AIDS. They suggest that consumers employ "healthy skepticism" when they learn of a new drug that treats a new and supposedly widespread disorder, while also seeking help when they feel they truly need medication.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
B&T Weekly, June 10, 2005, Anne Fawcett, review of Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients, p. 18.
Booklist, June 1, 2005, Donna Chavez, review of Selling Sickness, p. 1736.
Pharmacy News, June 9, 2005, Simone Roberts, review of Selling Sickness, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of Selling Sickness, p. 50.
MSNBC, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ (August 2, 2005), Jennifer Barrett, "Selling Sickness to the Well" (interview with Moynihan).