(U-WIRE) DEKALB, Ill. ? Drugs can solve all of our problems. At least, that?s what prescription drug companies seem to want us to believe.

Turn on any major network just about any time of day, and you can expect to be bombarded with images of happy asthmatics running on the beach, chronic over-eaters pushing away plates of half-eaten food and smokers popping a pill instead of sucking a smoke.

One of the latest images consists of a woman who seems like she?s about to go postal, yelling at her husband because she?s suffering from PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Another afflicted woman is distraught because she?s too bloated to zip up her jeans.

According to the Society for Women?s Health Research Web site, located at www.womens-health.org, 3 to 5 percent of menstruating women suffer from PMDD. The disorder is considered a severe form of PMS and is characterized by severe mood swings, depression, irritability and physical symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness.

Recent research has shown a connection between PMDD and low serotonin levels in the brain, and the makers of Prozac have come to the rescue with the latest cure for all that ails us.

But the new drug used to treat PMDD, with the commercial name Sarafem, really isn?t so new. It?s good old fluoxetine hydrochloride, repackaged in pretty, little pink and purple pills.

Yep, it?s Prozac.

Interestingly, the Indianapolis manufacturer of Sarafem, Lilly, loses its patent on Prozac in August. Generic equivalents of the drug, which made the company $2.6 billion last year, will then be marketed by rival companies at lower prices to consumers. But with Sarafem, Lilly now has a separate patent to market the drug for PMDD through 2007. Makers of other SSRIs, or selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Zoloft and Paxil, are attempting to have their drugs marketed for PMDD as well.

An interesting aspect of Sarafem is that treatment requires taking the pills daily throughout the month, not just while symptoms are occurring. Once again, Lilly has found a way to make a killing, and they didn?t even have to create a new drug to do it.

Perhaps women won?t be as quick to jump on the quick-cure bandwagon, as was the case with the antidepressants.

Americans are taking pills instead of taking responsibility for their health, if the popularity of Prozac and other drugs is any indication.

Drug companies market their quick fixes, and baby-boomers, suffering from years of exposure to pollution, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, fat, refined sugars, alcohol, cigarettes and everything else they?ve sucked down, buy it up. Then they send their children to participate in elementary school D.A.R.E. programs while they pop the latest trend prescription like candy.

PMDD is apparently a hormonal condition, and the women who suffer from it ? though the psychiatric community still debates the legitimacy of the disorder ? are not responsible for that. But instead of taking the approach that benefits drug companies, women should take the one that benefits themselves.

The women?s health site recommends dietary and lifestyle changes, such as increasing carbohydrate consumption, reducing salt and caffeine, getting exercise and reducing stress. Mineral supplements are one possibility for women who don?t respond to lifestyle changes, and extra calcium is another suggestion.

Alas, common sense prevails. Or will it? Too bad it doesn?t come in a pill.

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