No standard medical definition or criteria are associated with the term. Insurers neither provide any definition of the term, nor label any medication as a lifestyle drug, nor classify any medications as lifestyle drugs as a criterion for reimbursement.
The term is entirely a popular usage, and describes a drug that targets a condition which is considered, in absolute or in relative terms, as unworthy of treatment. It finds broad use in media, and is usually intended and interpreted as pejorative.
Over time, pharmaceuticals research and development creates an ever-larger catalog of medications with an ever-broader range of effects. To the extent that its effects restore someone with a recognized disease or disorder to a state of health considered normal, the marketing and use of a particular medication will more likely be judged legitimate and/or necessary. This judgment is also be more likely to the extent the disease or disorder is considered serious or severe
Critics of pharamaceutical firms point to advocacy of novel "disorders", not recognized as such before their "cures" could be profitably marketed. the consequences including generally greater worries about health, and unnecessary medical research and health care expenditure.
Defining a particular condition (i.e. some constituent element of the human condition) as a disease, disorder, or dysfunction makes a more or less explicit value judgment on the condition in terms of good and evil. In the process (often described as medicalization), similarly value-laden concepts like "healthy" or "normal" undergo complementary redefinitions.
The public character and significance of medicalization in general or in any specific case only occasionally becomes clear – the most prominent such occasion perhaps being the 1973 vote of the American Psychiatric Association to renounce its prior recognition of homosexuality as a clinical mental disorder.
Critics argue that pharmaceutical firms, through advocacy hidden from public view among makers of public policy and specialist experts, as well as mass marketing where the definition of some condition as medical is taken as a foregone conclusion, the potential for free and open public dialog regarding its implications is diminished.
Social critics also question the propriety of devoting huge research budgets towards creating these drugs when far more dangerous diseases like cancer and AIDS remain uncured. It is sometimes claimed that lifestyle drugs amount to little more than medically sanctioned recreational drug use. Proponents, however, point out that improving the patient's subjective quality of life has always been a primary concern of medicine, and argue that these drugs are doing just that.