London, April 15:

You are lying on the sofa after a hard day at work and should be relaxing. But you are overcome by an insatia-ble urge to kick your legs ab-out. As you struggle to control yourself, your kids run riot in the room. And to cap it all, your sex life is rubbish.

Just an everyday scene in many people’s ordinary lives, or the combination of three newly identified medical conditions that can be treated at the pop of a pill? The latter, according to some of the world’s biggest, most profitable pharmaceutical companies, which have come up with a range of new drugs to treat ‘restle-ss legs syndrome’, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, and female sexual dysfunction. But according to reports publish-ed today, the truth is more complicated. Healthy peop-le are being turned into patients by drug firms, which publicise mental and sexual problems and promote little-known conditions only then to reveal the medicines they say will treat them.

The studies, published in a respected medical journal, accuse the pharmaceutical industry of ‘disease mongering’ — a practice in whi-ch market for a drug is inflated by convincing people they are sick and in need of medical treatment. The ‘co-rporate-sponsored creation of disease’ wastes resources and may even harm people because of medication they turn to, the researchers add.

In 11 papers in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine, experts from Britain, the US and elsewhere argue that new diseases are being defined by specialists who are often funded by the drug industry.

According to the researchers, the campaigns boost drug sales by medicalising aspects of normal life such as sexuality, portray mild problems such as irritability in children as serious illnesses and suggest that rare health conditions, such as the urge to move ones’ legs, are common.

“Disease mongering exploits the deepest atavistic fears of suffering and dea-th,” said Iona Heath, a general practitioner at the Cav-ersham Practice in London who contributed to the jou-rnal. She added, “It is in the interests of pharmaceutical companies to extend the range of the abnormal so th-at the market for treatments is proportionately enlar-ged.” In the editorial, guest editors Ray Moynihan and David Henry write, “Informal alliances of pharmaceutical corporations, public relations firms, doctors’ groups and patient advocates promote these ideas to the public and policy ma-kers, often using mass media to push a certain view of a particular health problem.” In one of the reports, Dr Joel Lexchin, a drug safety expert at York University , alleges that Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, devised ways to ‘ensure that the drug was seen as a legitimate therapy for any man’, and ‘took steps to make sure it was not relegated to just treating erectile dysfunction due to organic causes, such as diabetes or prostate surgery’.