Summary: Another glimpse at the workings of the drug industry and how it indirectly relates to Microsoft
AT RISK of going excessively off topic, this post is about the PR and pharmaceutical industries, which enjoy a symbiotic relationship that Professor Larry Lessig intends to investigate and expose in years to come. This coverage is very timely because of the news and also because of the relationship of the Gates family with the pharmaceutical industry (sometimes more aptly called “the pharmaceutical cartel”).
Starting with the news, PR Watch writes about Pfizer’s latest mischief, namely embedding advertising inside a message which is disguised as “public service”. In other words, they do something potentially evil under the disguise of “charity”. This is a lot more common than people realise and we gave some examples yesterday.
New Advertising Trend: Fake ‘Public Service’ Ads
MyTimeToQuit.com. The ad has the look and feel of a public service announcement, and mentions neither Pfizer, nor the popular smoking cessation drug it promotes — Chantix (varenicline). The ad represents a growing trend in drug advertising called “help-seeking ads,” which don’t mention a drug by name, but instead address the condition the drug is meant to treat, and then drive viewers to a toll-free 800 number or a Web site that offers an option to learn more about a prescription drug meant to treat the condition. It is a sneaky, but legal way to advertise drugs that have particularly bad side effects, since avoiding mentioning the drug by name lets the company off the hook for listing its bad side effects in the ad, too, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules.
PR Watch has also just covered the Merck/Elsevier fiasco. Here are three of the links which we shared this morning:
It is this attitude within companies like Merck and among doctors that allows scandals precisely like this to happen. While the scandals with Merck and Vioxx are particularly egregious, we know they are not isolated incidents. This one is just particularly so. If physicians would not lend their names or pens to these efforts, and publishers would not offer their presses, these publications could not exist. What doctors would have as available data would be peer-reviewed research and what pharmaceutical companies produce from their marketing departments–actual advertisements.
Of course, this is exactly the sort of thing that you can do when everything is locked up and proprietary, rather than open. There’s almost no way to confirm or check the data or information to make sure it’s legit, so people tend to assume it is. In that regard, perhaps it’s no surprise that the two companies eventually went down this road, but it does highlight one of the problems with the way the system works today. As Shirky later points out this is hardly unique for a firm like Elsevier, which has faced some serious ethical questions regarding its publications in the past as well.
One of the more laughable reasons that traditional science publishers cite in their attempts to rubbish open access is that it’s somehow not so rigorous as “their” kind of publishing. There’s usually a hint that standards might be dropped, and that open access journals aren’t, well, you know, quite proper.
What a nice bunch of companies, eh?
They save lives with their drugs and never do any evil. Or so they wish us to believe.
“This is nothing particularly new, but a lot of the public is not aware of this.”Yesterday we had a conversation with a reader who wished to raise some important points on this subject. “I posted some link on Brasilia breaking patents to buy cheaper AIDS drugs and people were like “WOOHOOO”,” he told us. “Look at that domain too, it’s gonna help, but the USA was like: “you owe us now, make a step and we kill ya.” If you want to show that Microsoft is the world’s evil, then post analogies.”
There are many possible analogies here are readers can think about them easily. Creation of a dependence is one example, use of patents and extortion being another. The “intellectual debt” conundrum is actually a subject that we wrote about a month ago (see discussion at the bottom). This is nothing particularly new, but a lot of the public is not aware of this. It tends to cause unrest and it typically identifies empires that “bring technology” or “spread democracy” in exchange for something whose desire for they publicly deny.
It ought to be added that the “pharmaceutical cartel” as some people call it is one of the most evil entities out there not just because of fake research but also an extortion where human life is at stake (life and death get monetised). Mr. Bill Gates — through his foundation — is feeding this cartel and asking governments in which he makes multi-billion dollar investments to funnel taxpayers’ money to these cartels that he himself invests in. It was standard practice for the likes of Rockefeller. For those to whom this is new, here are places to start (it may seem like a lot to digest from one paragraph and no external references):
- Bill and Melinda Gates Instruct Countries They Invest in to Feed Pharmaceuticals They Invest In
- Bill Gates and the Business of Disease
Distinguished people who talk about these matters often get silenced and that’s just where the PR industry comes into play again.
Our reader adds:
“This “medical” cartel can outdo Gates and kill him 10 times in a row for the money they get. Just dig a little, there should be plenty of news of such kind. If there are none, they paid pretty much so that it won’t rise in the news [...] and the medical/pharmacy industry is making waaaay too much on people’s lives. They don’t cure a thing but pay others to distribute stuff to keep people in anesthesia so there are plenty of “anesthetic” drugs which don’t cure but postpone. If you want something to cure with, buy something that costs much but maybe is not even as effective as what’s curing [and] actually costs [a lot].”
Our reader stressed that all of this can be enforced with facts because — as he asserted on the spot — what he offered was “the knowledge collected and there are facts as well. People don’t tend to respect knowledge nowadays.” For those who are interested in information about the massive spin/marketing industry (whose revenue is something on the scale of a trillion dollars per year in the United States), a good place to start would be Source Watch, whose work we admire. For those who fancy video, here is a great documentary about the PR industry. Reality is quite uncomfortable — if not altogether intimidating — to many of us, but to eternally live in imposed illusions is a risk too high to bear in the long term. █