On March 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) started a new print and television ad campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers” that features real people offering tips on how to live with diseases caused by smoking or secondhand smoke. Ads show survivors of oral and throat cancer, strokes, amputations and heart attacks. The former smokers give tips like how to bathe, shave and get dressed with their conditions. The ads show amputees putting on their prosthetic limbs, and heart attack and lung cancer survivors show their surgical scars. The ads also show other grisly results of smoking that most people rarely or never get to see. The campaign has more than doubled calls to CDC’s quit line. From March 12 – March 18, the period just prior to the start of the ad campaign, the quit line got 14,437 calls. Between March 19 and March 25 — after the ads started running — the quit line got 34,413 calls. The ads are tagged with the number 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free number where smokers can get free quitting information and support. Visits to CDC’s quit-smoking website, www.smokefree.gov, have tripled since the campaign began.
In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially listed secondhand tobacco smoke as a Group A Human Carcinogen, the same rating the agency gives to asbestos, radon gas and vinyl chloride. The listing was a public relations disaster for the tobacco industry, and their internal documents show how tobacco companies reacted. A 6-page Philip Morris planning document found in the files of Ted Lattanzio (Director of Philip Morris Worldwide Regulatory Affairs), lists strategies and budgets for fighting efforts to ban smoking in workplaces and public places. Page 4 describes a strategy for dealing with public information about how childrens’ health is disproportionately affected by exposure to secondhand smoke:
“Shift the debate on ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] and children to: Are our schools and day care centers making children sick?”
Tactics proposed for making the public believe that schools and day care centers are making children sick (instead of secondhand smoke) include:
“Feed available information to National School Board Association in D.C. Feed information to Oprah, et. al. Get sick children on the shows. Research newspaper clippings of parents who keep children at home because of school environment — pass those on. Why? Shift the debate. Why is EPA not spending research dollars on solving school problem?? I have the research budget for next year — not very much is going to identify or solve the school problem. Get information to EPA Watch.”
Philip Morris’ estimated budget for the effort to blame day care facilities for making children sick was $100,000.
By now millions of people know about of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Far fewer, though, know about the equally, if not more tragic killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. an elderly veteran with a heart condition who lived in White Plains, New York, who was killed by police in his own home last November. Around 5:30 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2011, Chamberlain, 68, unknowingly triggered the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck while he was sleeping. The medical alert company contacted Chamberlain’s apartment through a speaker box in the dining room to ask if he was all right. When Chamberlain didn’t respond, the company called 911 and told police they were responding to a medical emergency, not a crime. The police arrived at Chamberlain’s house and knocked on the door. Chamberlain woke up, went to the door and told the police that he was fine and that he didn’t call them. The police insisted on gaining entry to Chamberlain’s home, though, insisting that they wanted to see that he was all right. Chamberlain kept refusing to open the door and asking them to leave. Finally, after about an hour of this standoff, the officers, uttering racial slurs and expletives, broke down Mr. Chamberlain’s front door. Once inside, they fired a taser at Mr. Chamberlain. The taser prongs apparently missed Mr. Chamberlain and one of the officers shot Mr. Chamberlain in the chest, killing him.
Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood have drawn a lot of media attention in recent months, but a video message from President Obama in support of Planned Parenthood recently posted on the Internet drew little notice. In the video, Mr. Obama talks about how politicians are trying to deny millions of American women the health care they rely on. He says that when people hear “some professional politicians casually say they’ll get rid of” Planned Parenthood, what they are really talking about is eliminating the funding “for preventive care that millions of women rely on and leaving them to fend for themselves.” Mr. Obama talks about how he stood up to Republicans who wanted to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and that it is wrong for legislators to play politics with women’s health. While he doesn’t mention it in the video, Obama has a personal stake in this issue. He was raised by a single mother who died at age 53 from ovarian cancer.
For 103 days now, Terence Gerace, Ph.D. has stood outside CVS pharmacies in Washington, D.C. protesting their sales of a product that is known to be deadly when used exactly as directed: cigarettes. In press releases and ads, CVS claims it works to improve health and lower health care costs for Americans, but all the while it continues to sell the leading causes of preventable death and disease in the U.S. No matter what they say in their ads, the truth is that CVS, and other national drug chains, like Rite Aid and Walgreens (pdf), do not care about health one bit. They care about profits, and every day they profit from both causing and curing disease. Pharmacies are among the most trusted sources of health information in the U.S., but for decades, national drug chains have actively colluded behind the scenes with tobacco companies not only to market cigarettes, but also to oppose legislation (pdf) to regulate tobacco. Dr. Gerace, a former Research Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Miami School of Medicine, knows all of this, so it’s no wonder he saw red after spotting a full-page CVS ad in the Washington Post that screamed, “To better manage chronic diseases, we needed a new kind of pharmacy…” Incensed, Dr. Gerace made a new sign out of the ad by adding the big words “NEW CVS Cigarette-Free!” above the headline. Now he uses this sign in his ongoing, one-man protest against CVS selling cigarettes. In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association issued a statement urging U.S. pharmacies to stop selling tobacco. Boston and San Francisco have passed laws forcing pharmacies to stop selling cigarettes, and Target, the nation’s third-largest retailer chain, stopped selling cigarettes in 1996. It is counter-intuitive, inimical to their mission and just plain two-faced for a business to portray itself as caring about people’s health while also selling cigarettes, but until a law forces them stop, CVS, as well as Rite Aid and Walgreens, plan to keep advertising that they care about health while continuing to sell the leading cause of death and disease in the U.S.
In a move that the Daily Kos has dubbed “Operation Buy Me Some Love,” Rush Limbaugh is trying to buy support from his remaining listeners by luring people to retweet statements he posts to his Twitter account in exchange for a chance to win a prize. Rush announced on his show that each day he will randomly select someone from his list of Twitter followers who retweets his messages to win a new third-generation IPad. He promises NOT to announce the name of the winner on his show, apparently to save them the embarrassment of being exposed as a listener. Limbaugh refers to the advertising boycott against him as “a pure act of terrorism.” Limbaugh has also hired a reputation and crisis manager, Brian Glicklich, to help him with defense and “media correction.” Glicklich served as a crisis manager for Glenn Beck and Paris Hilton.
Main source: Daily Kos, March 23, 2012
The makers of Belvedere Vodka yanked a controversial ad that appeared to joke about rape. The ad showed a horrified woman trying desperately to escape from a leering man who was grabbing her from behind. The tagline read, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” The company tweeted the controversial ad and posted it on their Facebook page, only to get strong and immediate backlash. Belvedere moved quickly to remove the post and apologized several times. Belvedere’s ad agency, Arnell Group, has done ads with strong sexual overtones for the brand before, but the agency denies that it created this particularly controversial ad.
Main Source: Ad Age, March 23, 2012
A new website created in Colorado, CleanSlateNow.org, is the first and only site so far to publicly list candidates for office at all levels of government nationwide who have pledged to forgo all special interest money. The listed candidates do not accept any funding from political action committees, big banks, insurance companies, unions, big oil, pharmaceutical companies or any other corporate interests. As CleanSlateNow states, the only problem is that these candidates are little-known. The website aims to fix that. CleanSlateNow.org was founded in October, 2011 by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who was term-limited out of office in 2009. Gordon is famous for making a chilling 2007 “No Stuntman Used” campaign video in which he appears in person in scuba gear from inside a shark tank to demonstrate his independence from local political sharks. The goal of CleanSlateNow is to create an environment where people, and not money, will start determining the outcome of U.S. elections.
Two young British men desperate to pay off student debt and facing dismal prospects for employment have started selling ad space on their faces — and are doing remarkably well at, it while having a blast. Ross Harper and Ed Moyse, both 22, created BuyMyFace.com, where people go to schedule the time they want rent the two young mens’ faces. Customers then upload a logo or picture along with any brief text they want displayed, and then, on the appropriate dates, Harper and Moyse have the specified graphics expertly painted on their faces and go out and about in public sporting the ads. Advertisers can send the two men to festivals, skiing, skydiving, go-karting or on other adventures to help boost visibility of their ads. The two are advertising their service on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, as well as through newspapers and word of mouth. The big, London-based audit and financial advisory firm Ernst and Young bought ten days’ worth of advertising on BuyMyFace.com in December, 2011, and have since become exclusive sponsor of the BuyMyFace.com website. In addition to winning the firm’s valuable sponsorship, thousands of people are visiting BuyMyFace.com every day. Days are sold for the next two months, ranging in price from £150-600 (U.S. $238-955). Now, at day 180 of their unique effort, Harper and Moyse have earned £32,682 (about U.S. $52,000) toward paying off their student loans.
Source: PRWeb UK, March 29, 2012
A new word has entered the lexicon: “Pharmageddon.” Wiktionary defines it as “a dystopian scenario wherein medicine and the pharmaceuticals industry have a net detrimental effect on human health and medical progress does more harm than good.” We are fast approaching pharmageddon, as drugs are increasingly fast-tracked to approval and only later found to do little or no good, or, even worse, to cause harm. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled the breast cancer drug Avastin off the market, after having fast-tracked its approval. Over $6 billion worth of Avastin was sold before two follow up studies showed that the survival rate of patients who took Avastin was no better than patients who took other drugs. Not only did huge numbers of women take this essentially worthless drug to treat their breast cancer, but the listed side effects of Avastin included conditions severe enough to merit a descriptor of potentially fatal several times in the drug’s informational brochure. Another factor in prescription drug danger is the fact that drug companies are increasingly engaging in criminal behavior aimed at boosting sales at any cost. In 2009, the drug maker Pfizer paid a record $2.3 billion fine and pled guilty to a felony for illegally promoting its painkiller Bextra. Pfizer paid kickbacks to doctors and dished out perks, like massages and all-expense-paid trips to fancy resorts, to get doctors to prescribe Bextra for off-label, or unapproved, uses. Like Avastin, Bextra was ultimately pulled off the market due to safety concerns. This wasn’t the first or even the second time Pfizer had been caught marketing drugs illegally, either. It was the fourth time just since 2002 that FDA had fined Pfizer or one of its subsidiaries fined for marketing its drugs in an illegal manner.
Taking prescription drugs is increasingly fraught with danger. Adverse side effects have risen over the years to where they are now a leading cause of death, disability, and illness. It is estimated that only 1 to 10 percent of adverse drug events ever get reported to the FDA. Many people suffer side effects from prescription drugs that are considered “medically mild” but that are nonetheless disabling, like detrimental effects on memory, concentration, and judgment. Often people report adverse side effects to their doctors, only to be told there is little or no evidence linking their problem to the drug. This lack of information is not a mistake — it traceable to the fact that most of the data on prescription drugs is the property of the pharmaceutical companies, since the companies run most of the clinical trials for the drug. Up to 60% of these trials are never publicly reported. For obvious reasons, companies have a vested interest in not fully disclosing the side effects of their products.
Recognizing the extent and severity of the problem of prescription drug side effects, Dr. David Healy, author of a just-published book titled “Pharmageddon,” along with group of people who, like Healy, have risked their careers to speak out about adverse drug events, are developing a free website where people can share information on the side effects they experience while taking prescription drugs. RxRisk.org, in effect, aims to crowd-source real-time data about drug side effects, to create a fuller picture of exactly how these drugs are really affecting people. The site accepts no advertising and is not linked in any way to big Pharma. Use of it is free and anonymous. The site also helps users research drugs they are taking. People who report information on the side effects they experience can get a free report they can take to their doctors, to encourage fuller and more informed discussion of their treatment. Doctors can also add information to their patients’ reports. RxRisk.org’s advisory board is comprised of people with relatives injured by adverse drug events, health care activists and independent scientists. The site is currently in beta development, but RxRisk.org is a much-needed grassroots effort to track the side effects of prescription drugs and build a record of them, so that it eventually it will become unreasonable to say the problem can’t be happening in at least some people. Visit the new, consumer-friendly drug-tracking website here.