Medical journals: “information-laundering for Big Pharma”?

Whenever you read a medical journal article with a title like Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, you know it’s a bad day for patients.

As a heart attack survivor who spends way too much of my time hanging out with cardiologists, pain specialists and other doctors who read these journals, I especially hate seeing this article written by a person like Dr. Robert Smith, who was himself the editor of the British Medical Journal for 25 years.*

Dr. Smith’s not alone. Consider Dr. Richard Horton of the medical journal, Lancet, who once wrote:

“Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry.”

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Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food

In the good old days, the tobacco industry had a strategic marketing playbook script that worked something like this:

  • emphasize personal responsibility for choosing to smoke
  • pay scientists to deliver research that instills doubt about risks
  • criticize the “junk science” that finds harms associated with smoking
  • make self-regulatory pledges
  • lobby with massive resources to stifle government action
  • introduce “safer” products
  • simultaneously manipulate and deny both the addictive nature of tobacco products and marketing said products to children

The compelling question asked by researchers Drs. Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner is this: How does the script of the modern food industry compare to that tobacco industry script?  Continue reading

Universal cholesterol screening for little kids?

November 11, 2011 was a happy day for Big Pharma. That’s the day when The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued new guidelines recommending that every child’s first cholesterol check should occur before the kid hits puberty, between the age of 9-11.  As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, the guidelines also come amid broad concern about growing numbers of children who are overweight or obese (as about 17% of the little darlings are, triple the level from three decades ago).

These children, say those who wrote these guidelines, are thus potentially on course for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious health problems as adults.

With all due respect to the very smart doctors who came up with what amounts to a resounding high-five victory for marketing-based medicine, I feel compelled to ask:

“What were you thinking?”

Even though the new guidelines contain a mandatory cautionary note (“Drugs? What drugs?”) the corporate pharmaceutical windfall that’s implicit in them is worth celebrating if you happen to own stock in Big Pharma.   Continue reading