"One of the things medical people really know about is clever advertising and one of the really clever tricks of the industry is duping the media into running advertising campaigns absolutely free of charge," writes Media Watch of Australia as it deconstructs the "Healthy Weight Task Force," a front group set up by the Burson-Marsteller PR firm in Australia to promote sales of Xenical diet pills.
"Last week, one simple health message dominated the US media: radical prostate surgery for prostate cancer saves lives. The media were reporting the results of a Swedish trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine yet the trial showed no such thing," reports Jeanne Lenzer. In reality, observes Dr. Otis Brawley at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, "men who have prostatectomies just exchange one form of death for another within six years." Dr.
"Some leading members of the American Academy of Pediatrics are expressing outrage that the group is allowing the maker of Similac infant formula to print its corporate logo on the cover of a special edition of the academy's book on breast-feeding," reports the New York Times. "The academy, whose members include 57,000 pediatricians and other pediatric specialists, has long recommended that most mothers breast-feed because of the myriad benefits over formula." Dr. Lawrence M.
A week after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Christie Whitman issued a news release claiming that air pollution caused by the collapse of the World Trade Towers was no big deal. "I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink," she said.
"After learning that some celebrities who talked on its news programs about their health problems were being paid by drug companies, CNN has issued a new policy and will tell viewers about the stars' financial ties to corporations," New York Times' Melody Petersen writes. In an August 11 Times article, Petersen revealed the widespread testimonial practice. Petersen reports stars like Lauren Bacall and Kathleen Turner "had been paid to help promote drugs or other medical products" on network morning "news" programs.
In 1997, the wife of Phillip Bonaffini died from an infection she contracted during cardiac surgery at Bridgeport Hospital. Another patient, Eunice Babcock, was left wheelchair-bound due to a staphylococcus infection that she contracted during surgery at the same hospital. The hospital settled the cases out of court by paying Bonaffini and Babcock an undisclosed sum in exchange for signed confidentiality agreements.
PR giant Weber Shandwick (WS) is helping the United Senior Association (USA), a 1.5 million member organization, with its PR needs. USA is backing the prescription drug bill that was passed by the House on June 28. O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports, "That bill is backed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which has made 'educational grants' to USA. PhRMA supports the House measure because it bans the government from setting prices for prescription drugs. It is against a more expansive drug plan that is being introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
"Madison Avenue, facing growing legislative threats to one of the advertising industry's most lucrative categories, is stepping up the fight to protect its freedom to pitch prescription drugs directly to consumers. Drug companies, agencies and their media allies who have benefited handsomely from the flood of ads beat back one recent measure in the House of Representatives. ... The category of direct-to-consumer ads did not even exist until five years ago. Before 1997, broad curbs prevented pharmaceutical makers from mounting any significant