Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TV Doctors Are Paid To Push Drugs and Vaccines

Studies show two-thirds of regular television viewers learn about health from TV dramas.  Big pharmaceutical companies know this, and team up with Hollywood, to push their medical agenda, and prescription drugs.  Daytime television is filled with advertisements, and commercials, for all types of prescription drugs, but the fairly recent trend of glorifying certain doctor/actors, as medical experts, is being exploited and manipulated by Big Pharma, to further push their agenda.

We should question why these doctors wear their white lab coats and hospital scrubs when they are on stage, performing for television, as if they were just backstage performing medical procedures. 

Dr. Drew
The Many Faces of Dr. Drew
David Drew Pinsky, best known as Dr. Drew, has become one of the most famous doctor/television personalities, with a popular syndicated radio show, as well as starring roles in, and producing, a number of television shows.   

What you may not know is that Dr. Drew was involved in the largest health care fraud case in U.S. history.  GlaxoSmithKline LLC, the worlds fourth-largest pharmaceutical company, was forced to pay $3 billion and plead guilty to promoting two popular drugs for unapproved uses, failing to disclose important safety information on a third drug, as well as a number of other complaints.  The company was even paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe those drugs, as well as others.  According to U.S. attorney Carmin Ortiz, the sales force of GSK "bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours to a European pheasant hunt to tickets to Madonna concerts, and this is just to name a few."

Dr. Drew Pinsky was included in the Department of Justice’s complaint against GlaxoSmithKline, alleging that the company paid the former host of Loveline as much as $275,000 to promote the anti-depressant Wellbutrin SR.  The complaint alleges that Dr. Drew highlighted the drug's libido-enhancing side effects in March and April of 2009, though he didn't reveal that he was a paid spokesman.  On his radio show, he alluded to a female caller, who allegedly had 60 orgasms in a row, that it might be attributed to Wellbutrin, he then proceeded to communicate Glaxo's "key campaign messages," all without disclosing that he'd been paid to do so. 

Also, Dr. Drew, last year, received criticism after he did a show about gastric bypass surgery—even though he did not disclose that he was once a paid spokesperson for 1-800-GET-THIN, a lap-band surgery marketing firm.  In another connection to Big Pharma, Dr. Drew has, in the past, accepted payment of $115,000 from pharmaceutical firm Janssen Pharmaceuticals for "consulting".

Dr. Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz is probably the most popular television doctor in America today.  But like Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz has questionable connections with pharmaceuitcal companies, as well as inconsistent recomendations, that may be due to his allegiance to Big Pharma.

Dr. Oz has used his television show to promote vaccinations, especially the flu vaccination, during the H1N1 'scare'.  He even sat down, in front of his studio audience, received a shot, as well as announced that everyone in his audience will be receiving a flu shot.  Dr. Leonard Horowitz is a major critic of vaccinations and has analyzed this particular Dr. Oz episode, as well as the H1N1 vaccine.  Watch part one, of the three part video below.

One of the major problems with Dr. Oz getting on the television and telling everyone how important it is to get a flu shot, is that he doesn't even give his own children a vaccination shot.  As you can see in the video below, at the 1:00 minute mark, Dr. Oz makes it very clear that his wife is against immunizing their children, and will not vaccinate. 

Another problem that arises in connection with Dr. Oz and vaccinations, is his ownership of 150,000 option shares of a vaccine technology company, SIGA Technologies.  SIGA has many advanced developments whose success depends on the widespread adoption of vaccines.  It would be great for business to have an 'expert' medical celebrity on television to help validate the safety of vaccines.  Mike Adams of asks the question, "Is it right for someone talking about whether vaccines are safe on television to also be carrying stock options and serving on the board of directors of a vaccine company at the same time?"

A more recent criticism of Dr. Oz is his apparent flip-flop on Organic foods, declaring pesticide free food to be "elitist," "snooty", and no better than conventional foods, causing some critics to believe Dr. Oz has finally sold out to the 'Big Agriculture' companies.  Dr. Oz used to be a strong proponent of Organic foods, even telling his followers to "fill your body with healthy organic foods."  Also,  check out the brief, interesting letter that Dr. Gary Null wrote to Dr. Oz, concerning his 'inflammatory comments' regarding Organic food versus genetically modified food (GMO).

Dr. Mehmet Oz has also been criticized for being a "front man for the RealAge website, a sort of "health front group" for the pharmaceutical industry that uses information provided by RealAge members to solicit consumers with pro-pharma marketing message targeted by age or health condition."  The New York Times ran an article online discussing some of the shady marketing techniques used by RealAge. 

Hollywood Propaganda

In the past, I have written about how Hollywood is used to push the agenda of the military industrial complex, but in reality, movies and television shows are great outlets for any type of propaganda.  You can be almost sure that when your favorite television show involves someone with a medical diagnosis, mentions a name of a drug, or anything else that has to do with your 'health', that it was placed in there, by medical 'experts', for 'educational' purposes.

There is an organization called "Hollywood, Health, & Society", through which "public health and medical experts offer expert consultation, education and resources for writers and producers who develop scripts with health storylines and information."  Hollywood, Health, & Society reach 800 writers every quarter with seminars, newletters, and phone lines staffed seven days a week.  The director of HHS, Sandra de Castro Buffington, says "accurate or not, health information presented in TV stories can have significant impact. Studies show two-thirds of regular viewers learn about health from TV dramas, and one-third of those viewers take action."  To be sure that the mainstream medical talking points are being told, and that no alternative views will be tolerated, Buffington, according to the Dallas Morning News, "doesn’t encourage health experts at her seminars to preach or criticize."  The Hollywood, Health & Society program has helped shape more than 300 stories on television shows in the last two years, according to Ms. de Castro Buffington. She said the stories can be more successful than other types of publicity.  More people called an AIDS hotline during and after an episode of “The Bold and the Beautiful,” in which a character is diagnosed with HIV, than during a public-service announcement for a national “get tested” campaign or a special about AIDS televised on MTV, she said.

(VIDEO: Feb. 18, 2010: Hollywood, Health & Society: Global Health Research Agenda-Setting Conference. The first person to talk, Jonathan Greene, writer for Law&Order SVU, details an episode he wrote to debunk the myth that HIV does not cause AIDS.)

In June 2004, "Hollywood, Health and Society" launched a newsletter for entertainment writers and producers called "Real to Reel." "Real to Reel" is said to "feature health headlines, news from the CDC and NCI, as well as real life case examples of people dealing with current health issues that can be used in entertainment programming."  The Summer 2011 issue even looks for writers to promote global warming as a health issue.

What could be worse than this small group of medical 'experts' using Hollywood to push their pharmaceutical agenda?  How about it being funded with American tax dollars!  According to the Hollywood, Health, & Society website, the group receives funding from governmental organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  Also on the website, the organization recognizes "the profound impact that entertainment media have on individual knowledge and behavior." (Sidenote: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also funded HHS)

The tax-payer sponsored National Cancer Institute (NCI) website, has an "entertainment resources" page, as well as an "Entertainment Education Program."  The NCI says they recognize "the power of popular entertainment in shaping the perceptions and practices of its viewers."  The website continues, "television shows, movies, and music not only command the attention of their audiences, but also reinforce existing behavior, demonstrate new behavior, and affect audience emotions. In October 2003, the NCI established a partnership with Hollywood executives and academic, public health, and advocacy organizations to share information with writers and producers about the nation's pressing health issues."    

The NCI Entertainment Education Program works in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center to provide expert consultation, education and resources for writers and producers who develop scripts with health storylines and information.

The National Cancer Institute says they know that "88 percent of people in America learn about health issues from television" and "believe that primetime and daytime television programs, movies, and talk shows are great outlets for health messages."

An interesting fact mentioned by the National Cancer Institute is "findings in a 1999 Healthstyles Survey indicated that regular viewers of soap operas reported more health concerns than individuals who do not watch soap operas."  The reader can take this bit of information any way they would like.

"Tip Sheets" are provided to writers, to be quick education tools to help the writer insert certain medical aspects in their story.  One of these tip sheets are about the controversial HPV vaccine, and encourages writers to convince their viewers to get vaccinated.  The case example reads as follows:

"Laurel is a 12 year-old girl.  At her annual physical check up, her doctor recommends that she get the HPV vaccine because of her age.  Her mother refuses, saying the vaccine is too expensive, too troublesome, and she doesn’t believe in vaccines.  One day, her mother gets a phone call from the gynecologist, who tells her the Pap smear she had last week showed precancerous cells on her cervix.  She has HPV. She talks to her doctor about HPV and learns that it is sexually transmitted and anyone can have it and unknowingly pass it on to their partners.  She also learns that she has been infected by one of the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer. The next week, Laurel’s mom takes Laurel to the pediatrician to get her the first in a series of shots against HPV. 

Sometimes celebrities get paid directly to promote certain prescription drugs.  These celebrities include Kelsey Grammer, Rob Lowe, and even former presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Bob Dole, in 1999, was payed to promote prescription drugs, when he informed the country in a national ad campaign about his erectile dysfunction (which resulted from treatment for his prostate cancer) and urged men across the nation to seek help if the condition bothered them.  However, Dole did not mention directly the newly released drug Viagra or Pfizer, the company that was paying for the campaign.

But don't think it is only celebrities and celebrity doctors that are getting paid to push prescription drugs on you, your family doctor may also be receiving kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. I already mentioned the various rewards GlaxoSmithKline was paying doctors, but in 2009, the drug company Pfizer was also forced to pay a fine for providing doctors with various perks, such as kickbacks and massages for promoting off-label uses of several of its drugs.  That same year Eli Lilly paid $1.4 billion to settle similar allegations.

Think for yourself.

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