Big Pharma is astroturfing

Dear Reader,

It looks as though FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb is about to turn his agency over to Big Pharma lock, stock, and barrel.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if he gave drugmakers the key to the front door at headquarters!

And it’s all being done by pretending that he’s making it a kinder, gentler FDA that listens to patients and takes what they say into consideration when allowing new medications on the market.

In mid-August, Gottlieb announced that he intends to shift the “culture of the agency” to make sure that patient voices are included in the approval process for drugs. While that might sound like a good idea, the truth is that Pharma has those bases covered, too!

It’s called “astroturfing,” and it’s one of the oldest tricks in the playbook.

Just like the sports stadiums that lay down fake grass, Big Pharma and other mega corporations lay out fake grass-roots campaigns to emotionally blackmail any agency mulling over a ruling that will impact their bottom line.

And that influences decision-making in their favor while seeming to be helping those in need.

Gottlieb’s new agenda should give you reason to take a long pause before allowing yourself to be convinced to take any new drug before doing some research about it on your own.

And when you do, you very well may find more reasons not to take that spanking new pharmaceutical!

There are examples galore about how interests that stand to profit from a regulatory action try take control without you knowing about it.

Several years ago, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) ran a “Stop the Stigma” campaign that flooded the media with PSAs about mental illness. Since NAMI claimed that it started with families meeting around a kitchen table, it sure sounded like it was as grass-roots as you could get.

But NAMI’s “grass” has been more like a lawn of greenbacks — funded to the tune of over $41 million drug-company dollars. And in reality, its campaign was about lobbying for laws that would grease the wheels for getting more drugs approved, prescribed, and used to treat mental illness.

One of the more bizarre illustrations of astroturfing would have to be the “National Smokers’ Alliance,” which attempted to make it look as if there was a grass-roots uprising against smoking bans. The group ran ads, published newsletters, and gave away T-shirts.

No surprise here, it was founded and funded by Phillip Morris!

Another example of a fake consumer group would be the drug-dollar-financed one that got the “ladies” med ADDYI out of the FDA’s well-oiled door and onto pharmacy shelves.

At first, the FDA advisory panel gave a big thumb’s down to ADDYI. The agency said that it wasn’t sure that the benefits outweighed the risks. But then an expensive PR campaign of fake groups demonstrating about how women are discriminated against when it comes to bedroom blues launched.

It even bussed them around the country to protest for equal gender rights!

And the plan worked big time, with the FDA giving in and approving the med three years ago.

Then there’s GlaxoSmithKline and the ad blitz running for its meningitis B vaccine Bexsero. The ad, which has aired close to 3,000 times, centers around a group called “Moms Against Meningitis B,” a coalition of allegedly earnest mothers “getting the word out” about the disease.

And it sure looks real, complete with homemade banners, T-shirts, and signs.

Only, this group is as authentic as a wooden nickel: The “moms” are all actors, with the entire campaign being staged just for the commercial.

As you’ve read right here in eAlert, Commissioner Gottlieb is a true-to-form Washington insider who knows how the game is played. Before he took the helm at the FDA, he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from drugmakers.

And keeping new drug approvals moving as fast as possible appears to be his main agenda.

So, when you read a glowing story in the paper about a drug… or see a group spreading “awareness” about a disease with a shot or pill to “cure” it… remember, Big Pharma is probably busy in the background planting its fake grass and hoping you’ll never notice that it’s not real turf at all!

To Knowing the Tricks,

Melissa Young

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