This is a pharmaceutical which is taken not to relieve or cure a medical condition, but to improve the quality of life of the person taking it. But there is dispute about what constitutes a medical condition that needs treatment and what is just cosmetic, discretionary or even unnecessary. The phrase is commonly used disparagingly by journalists, especially in Britain, where it is feared the cost of fashionable treatments may cause financial problems to the cash-strapped National Health Service. The matter has come up recently concerning Viagra, a new drug to treat male impotence that has created huge public interest both in the USA and Britain (though sales in the US are now reportedly already only a third of the level reached soon after its launch earlier this year). Another such drug is Xenical, a treatment for severe obesity that was released in Britain last month.
Magee contends Viagra is medically necessary for several reasons and is not a “recreational” or “lifestyle” drug. In addition, it gets men into treatment for conditions that otherwise may not have been diagnosed, he said.
Nando Times, Aug. 1998
It is as likely that Xenical will be used only to combat life-threatening obesity as it is that Viagra will be used only to treat clinical, diagnosed impotence. We’re talking about a lifestyle drug here, one that enables us to have it all: the pleasures of food with few of the calories.
Daily Mail, Sep. 1998