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“Deadly Spin” January 20, 2011

Filed under: Health Care Reform,Medical Ethics?,Take Action! — aprasek @ 12:32 am

Just got home from a fantastic lecture by Wendell Potter. He even signed my copy of his book, “Deadly Spin.”

Mr. Potter is the whistleblower that brought more attention to the shady practices of health insurance companies (BTW, I keep having the Counting Crows song “Mr. Potter’s Lullaby” run through my head…). You probably heard about (or watched) Mr. Potter’s testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee in June of 2009, but this guy has a lot more to say… and a lot of it is in his new book. This is information that we should all know– especially those who are insured. Seriously, we should know what we’re paying for right?

Check out his website and get a copy of the book. Comment back here as you read through. This should get interesting….


Crazy Like U.S. January 28, 2010

Filed under: Healthy Mind,Medical Ethics? — aprasek @ 1:00 pm

I posted about the NYTs article The Americanization of Mental Illness not long ago. Fascinating read BTW. The article was adapted from Ethan Watters book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. The book is now out in stores and is on my spring break reading list. If you check it out before then, let us know your thoughts.

Watters was on the Daily Show last night to discuss his book. Check out the video below for some entertaining discussion on the issues. In my opinion, Watters is right on (and Stewart). Our narrow mental health perspective and care [AKA pharmaceutical profit plan] are already damaging our own citizens. Why spread the destruction to others?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Ethan Watters
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

H1N1 Inflation and Vaccine Hoopla November 25, 2009

Filed under: Complementary Therapies,Medical Ethics?,Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 10:05 am

After my H1N1 post yesterday, I came across two great discussions about the potentially inflated statistics for H1N1 and on the safety of the H1N1 vaccine. Surprisingly good stuff by CBS:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

What are your thoughts? Can the public handle full disclosure in regard to public health issues? Will you be taking the vaccine?


“The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.” October 23, 2009

Filed under: Medical Ethics?,Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 7:13 pm

Here’s what Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, has to say about cancer screenings:

“We don’t want people to panic, but I’m admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.”

This is such an important statement. We’ve been scolded by our health care system and by annoying public service announcements that the only way to survive cancer is to get screened regularly. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

Check out this recent NYTs article: Cancer Society, in Shift, Has Concerns on Screenings.

And here are some past WG posts on the issue:

Kosher Prostate Exam (with links to help in decision making).

Is the PSA Test Worth It?

The bottom line is that individuals must be informed of the pros and cons of screening. Educate yourself and then make a decision when- or if- you want to get screened and how often (if you choose to screen).

Additionally, screening is not cancer “prevention.” Screening is simply a picture of what already exists. Cancer prevention occurs in everyday life; engaging in exercise, healthy eating, stress reduction, reducing environmental toxins, etc. These are the most important prevention techniques that can be put into practice.

And I’m off to engage in a prevention behavior right now… sleep 🙂 (yup, it’s an important one).


Money-Driven Medicine vs. YOUR health. September 7, 2009

Filed under: Health Care Reform,Medical Ethics?,Pharma — aprasek @ 10:35 pm


Money-driven medicine vs. YOUR health. Which do you support?


I had the opportunity to see the documentary, Money-Driven Medicine a few months ago. It is a candid portrait of our sick-care system, ahem, I mean health care system. I encourage you to visit the film’s website and watch a few more clips. Most of all, I encourage you to host a screening of the film with your friends, neighbors, business, school, etc. (sooner the better). Click here to purchase the DVD for screening. 



NAMI: Big Pharma’s “Grassroots” Organization. April 10, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Mind,Medical Ethics?,Pharma — aprasek @ 11:55 pm


It looks like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a different understanding of the “grassroots” model. Here’s how the non-profit describes itself:

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has affiliates in every state and in more than 1,100 local communities across the country.

Here are NAMI’s 2007 “corporate partners”:

Abbott Laboratories

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, LP

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

Eli Lilly and Company

Forest Laboratories, Inc.



Magellan Behavioral Health

McNeil Consumer Healthcare

Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.

Pfizer, Inc.


Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Vanda Pharmaceuticals

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals


Do you see something wrong with this? I sure do…

Big Pharma has created many non-profits, “grassroots” organizations and other fronts as a sly way of marketing. These organizations are often considered to be objective by the public. They seem passionate about spreading awareness and education. 

It’s no secret that Big Pharma is all about marketing. A 2008 study estimated that Big Pharma spent twice as much money on promotions than was spent on research and development.

Big Pharma will often say that the organizations they fund are not swayed by their influence. Do they really think the public is that stupid? I don’t see them funding organic school lunch programs or starting up stress reduction classes for high school and college students.

Consider NAMI’s belief:

Treatment outcomes for people with even the most serious mental illnesses are comparable to outcomes for well-established general medical or surgical treatments for other chronic diseases. The early treatment success rates for mental illnesses are 60-80 percent, well above the approximately 40 to 60 percent success rates for common surgical treatments for heart disease.  

C’mon NAMI, treatments for mental illness should not be compared to surgery. There isn’t a simple lump that can be removed to fix the “problem” (well, very rarely). Additionally, early treatment success does not mean lasting success.  

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe some individuals need psychotropic medication. Lives have been saved by these drugs. But, the majority of people need a for more integrative treatment plan than a bottle of pills and a few short sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy. 

This narrow, biologically based understanding of mental illness fits perfectly for Big Pharma. And obviously, Big Pharma funds what will benefit them. It’s all about the bottom line. And in 2008, total pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. rose to $291,000,000,000 (yeah, that’s 9 zero’s– 291 BILLION dollars).  

In 2007, NAMI took $10,207,160 in contributions. When Eli Lily disclosed their grants in 2007, it became more obvious just how compromised NAMI was:

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy group for patients, received $544,500. Of that, $450,000 went to fund a project called “Campaign for the Mind of America.”

Read more about the Lily disclosure at Pharmalot. In 1999, Mother Jones magazine called NAMI out on their conflicts of interest. Read the article if you have time, it’s VERY interesting. Here’s what the magazine discovered regarding Eli Lilly:

In the case of Lilly, at least, “funding” takes more than one form. Jerry Radke, a Lilly executive, is “on loan” to NAMI, working out of the organization’s headquarters. Flynn explains the cozy-seeming arrangement by saying, “[Lilly] pays his salary, but he does not report to them, and he is not involved in meetings we have with [them].” She characterizes Radke’s role at NAMI as “strategic planning.”

With multi-year agreements with companies like Astra-Zeneca, it’s likely that contribution dollars and the number of “on loan” consultants will only increase. The two really take care of each other; NAMI even helped Big Pharma lobby for looser off-label restrictions on pharmaceuticals
What gets me even more riled up is that NAMI is set on diagnosing adolescents as young as possible. NAMI wants early screening initiatives active in our schools. The thought of opening our public schools to Big Pharma frightens me.

This was a hot topic in Minnesota:



Read NAMI’s article on health screening in schools.

Obviously, NAMI is very interested in adolescent mental health— and for good reason. It’s possible that Big Pharma sees the benefit of creating younger customers so that hopefully, with a long-lasting label of mental illness and a dependency on drugs, adolescents will transform into customers for life. Big Tobacco marketed with the same philosophy. And yes, just like Joe the Camel, Big Pharma has used cartoons to push products.

Here’s an interesting doco that digs into this:




Watch the full movie here.

To sum this long post up…

I am obsessively passionate about these issues. They are very close to my heart. I am thankful that NAMI is getting the word out about the importance of mental health. There are still stigmas that need to be erased and communication on the topic can be very helpful. 

However, mental health should not always be equated with “mental illness.” A narrow understanding of mental health by an advocacy organization can be dangerous to the public. Human emotions are dynamic, influential and necessary to our growth process. We need to be careful what we choose to diagnose, label and treat.

If NAMI wants to be taken seriously, they need to cut their conflicts of interest. Until that time, I encourage individuals to support advocacy organizations that are not fronts for pharmaceutical companies. Seriously, do they really need any more of our money?



Faking Studies is Really Not Cool… March 11, 2009

Filed under: Medical Ethics?,Pharma — aprasek @ 6:52 pm

Ick. Yuck. Gross. Crap like this leaves a seriously bad taste in my mouth:

But the latest news is particularly eye-popping: A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies involving major drugs. Yikes.

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., has asked several anesthesiology journals to retract the studies, which appeared between 1996 and 2008, the WSJ reports. The hospital says its former chief of acute pain, Scott S. Reuben, faked data used in the studies.

Read more from the WSJ blog…

Though Mr. Reuben obviously had no problem deceiving the public, I’m not so sure he’s the only guilty one in all this. It was reported that Pfizer funded some of Reuben’s research and Pfizer also paid Reuben to speak on behalf of some of their drugs. Pfizer provided a statement to the WSJ saying, “It is very disappointing to learn about Dr. Scott Reuben’s alleged actions.”

Cue the skepticism…Was Pfizer really in the dark about all this? Was Reuben just that personally motivated to please Big Pharma that he gave them “good” studies without any extra compensation or direction from his funders? I would bet that there are at least a few names and corporations that were aware of the lies. Hopefully, there will be some serious investigation into these “alleged actions” to find out who the other dirty sell-outs are.

What do you think? Was Reuben alone in his lies?