People join the American Automobile Association because they think it's a nice way to get Triptiks, traveler's checks and emergency towing, but what most members don't know is that AAA is a lobbyist for more roads, more pollution, and more gas guzzling vehicles. AAA weighs in on highway funding, suburban sprawl, mass transit, car design and safety, air pollution, and global warming. Almost without exception, critics say, it advocates policies that damage the environment and endanger health.
Emerging evidence suggests that media coverage of medicine is increasingly promotional in nature. Recent Australian examples include misleading newspaper articles on an experimental cancer vaccine and a high profile television current affairs segment on a new influenza drug, which failed to disclose the industry ties of a key expert featured in the report.
The diet drug craze of the mid-1990s was fueled by cover-ups, misinformation and a multi-million-dollar PR machine, according to Dispensing with the Truth, a new book by Mediaweek's Washington bureau chief, Alicia Mundy. Burson-Marsteller, Edelman Medical Communications, Ogilvy Adams & Reinhart and Ketchum were among firms identified as part of a nearly $100 million public relations spin campaign "that would put presidential consultants to shame," writes Mundy.
Fresh on the heels of the Jesse Gelsinger gene therapy scandal, this report documents another case in which the biotechnology industry has experimented on humans without their consent. Patients died prematurely in two failed clinical trials at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center -- experiments in which the Center and its doctors had a financial interest. The patients and their families were never told about those connections, nor were they fully and properly informed about the risks of the experiments.
Porter Novelli will be handling a more than $1 million account for the American Cancer Society, whose recently-hired VP-corporate communications is Greg Donaldson. What's interesting (and thoroughly predictable) is that Donaldson came to ACS from Humana. ACS is gearing up to be a "player" in the DC public policy debate on healthcare.
"Showing all the signs of a thriving grass-roots movement, a host of new health-care groups are drawing attention to the perils of a contagious, sometimes lethal virus called hepatitis C," writes Robert O'Harrow. "But contrary to appearances, these coalitions are not spontaneous gatherings of concerned citizens. They are instead a key part of a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign funded by Schering-Plough Corp. to sell the primary therapy for hepatitis C, Rebetron, which costs $18,000 a year." Several members of the Hepatitis C Coalition are on the payroll of the Shandwick PR firm.
The food industry used an absurdly contrived "experiment" to prove that parents should let their kids eat junk foods in a study published in the June 1999 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The food-industry researchers taunted preschoolers by displaying an item of junk food while forbidding them to eat it. After five days of this treatment, they found, the kids' desire for the food item had increased.