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Pharma Taking Action to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model.)

Author: Justin McKibben

Eating disorders are commonly defined as psychological illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits. Eating disorders may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the extent that it is detrimental individual’s physical and mental health. As far as general information about eating disorder statistics:

  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment
  • Only 35% of people who do get treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility
  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the United States
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression

Eating disorders are a very real issue in this country, and now a new awareness campaign hopes to bring attention to one eating disorder in particular that affects an estimated 4 million Americans, but also one that remains largely unknown to the general public- Binge Eating Disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has become generally defined as an inability to control the consumption of considerably larger amounts of food in a short period of time, without subsequent purging episodes. Eating binges typically take place at least once a week for a period of three or more months, and these periods are often accompanied by feelings of guilt, disgust or embarrassment.

Despite the number of individuals who are affected by BED, the condition was only recently approved for inclusion in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 has created a set of criteria to classify a person’s behavior as binge eating disorder based on studies conducted in identifying the symptoms.
A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the

Binge eating is a core symptom of binge eating disorder; however, not everyone with binge eating has binge eating disorder.  An individual may occasionally binge eat without experiencing many of the negative physical, psychological, or social effects of binge eating disorder. This example may be otherwise interpreted as an “eating problem” rather than a disorder, although that is not always the case.

The condition affects individuals regardless of race, sex, or body type. Binge eating disorder typically begins to manifest itself at the age of 21, which is markedly later than other eating disorders.

Update on Pharma Efforts to Fight BED

In another article we talked about how the pharmaceutical company Shire has been pushing a new use for one of their medications. The company manufactures Vyvanse, which is a drug that is frequently prescribed to treat ADHD. Vyvanse was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Binge Eating Disorder. Now the Shire Company is working overtime, stating that it hopes to change that status with a national awareness campaign.

The awareness campaign currently features tennis great Monica Seles as its paid spokesperson. Recently there was another article on Monica Seles’ story and her own struggles with the eating disorder.

Seles, who wrote about her experiences with BED in her autobiography Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, Myself, is being featured in several public service announcements (PAS) about the severity of binge eating disorder. This PSA can be viewed on the campaign’s website.

Pharma Taking Action to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

The campaign for raising awareness about the dangers of eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder is also sponsored by 2 nonprofit organizations. The National Eating Disorders Association and the Binge Eating Disorder Association are both part of the growing efforts to help the general public better understand and acknowledge the dangers of this condition through promoting awareness on their respective websites.

Strangely enough, this topic has been talked about recently, and this writer posed the question as to whether or not attempting to treat BED with pills was going to be a constructive method of care, or if the side-effects of the medication and the dangers associated with substance abuse would outweigh the potential benefits. Surprisingly this new development means that the pharmaceutical company has actually taken up arms with some of the big guns in this battle to help try and spear-head the evolution of raising awareness for the disorder.

Now this may be a little cynical, but is Shire promoting this campaign because they want to make an impact? Or is this a form of marketing? Is the company trying to spread the word about BED as a health concern to help people get the treatment they desperately need, or is the company putting themselves at the front lines in hopes that Vyvanse will get more sales with more people learning about the dangers of binge eating and the medication now said to treat it?

Eating disorders and drug abuse are nothing to take lightly, and raising awareness is important. Everyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers should know they have the resources available to make a change, and quite possibly save a life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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