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The real spin doctors

MagazineAugust 2011 (Vol. 22 Issue 5)The real spin doctors

Organizations backed by government agencies or multinational corporations-and organized by a small number of committed individuals-help keep the lid on all that is wrong with conventional medicine

Organizations backed by government agencies or multinational corporations-and organized by a small number of committed individuals-help keep the lid on all that is wrong with conventional medicine. They influence the media, academia and research institutes-and they give us the view of medicine that doctors and drug companies want us to see. Here are just a few of them.
  • Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS)
David Sainsbury's term in office as the UK's Under Secretary of State Responsible for Science spawned a cabal of industry-orientated scientists. One of the stars in Sainsbury's firmament of proselytizing industrial- academic organizations was the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS). The biggest drug, chemi-cal and biotech companies poured money into it and, although the AMS organizers insist that it is 'independent', the organization has never come close to being 'independent' from corporations.
  • American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)
The principal US 'health fraud' organization, the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) is interlinked with two other organizations: Committee for Skeptical Investigation (CSI), previously the Commit-tee for the Scientific Investiga-tion of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), and the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). They mount constant attacks upon alternative medicine and clinical ecology while defending multinationals, especially the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
  • British Association for the Advancement of Science

Both the US Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) have been at the centre of the protection of the pharmaceu-tical industry competitiveness and the attacks on all kinds of alternative medicine. BAAS has been at the forefront of popularizing science and, in the 1980s and early 1990s, was also deeply entangled with the 'quackbuster' groups. The present president of the BAAS
is Lord David Sainsbury.
  • British Campaign Against Health Fraud (CAHF)
HealthWatch, the British pro-pharmaceutical lobby group, quickly changed its name from CAHF to give it a more formal appearance. It was, from the beginning, intimately related to the US NCAHF and CSICOP.
In the first decade of the 21st century, HealthWatch was revamped by the new bigger and better-funded lobby, inaugurated by former Lib-Dem MP Dick Taverne, his PR company interests and their sibling organizations, Sense about Science and the Science Media Centre.
  • British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)

Set up in 1967, the BNF is related to its American counter-part, the Nutrition Foundation of the United States. Up until the mid-1980s, the BNF control-led most 'official' information about nutrition, which passed either to the public through the news media, or to parliament via the various ministry-related food committees.
  • Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
In 1975, Paul Kurtz, a philosophy lecturer at New York University, launched the Com-mittee for Scientific Investiga-tion of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). A rationalist and atheist organization, CSICOP campaigned initially against religion, spiritualism and what it considered to be 'irrationality'. It changed its pretentious and untruthful name in 2004 to the Commit-tee for Skeptical Inquiry, claiming now to promote science and scientific inquiry, critical thinking and science education. CSICP is the British off-shoot of CSICOP.
  • Environmental Sensitivities Research Institute (ESRI)
The ESRI is a chemical-industry-linked association set up in 1994 by Dr Ronald Gots. An unusual 'research institute', it has only a P.O. Box address, no office and, in 2001, had only one member of staff. Enterprise members of ESRI include Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Amway, Colgate-Palmolive, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA). One of ESRI's objectives is to "proactively respond to the rising number of multiple chemical sensitivity cases". #
  • Exponent
Exponent is one of a new brand of companies that tries to manipulate the public percep-tion of social and environmental health problems encountered by big corporations. Superfi-cially unrelated to any particular industry, it has in-house experts, retains outside experts, commissions research and works with lobby groups, solving problems of public perception of confidence-leach-ing products and processes. Exponent is deeply involved in all the post-industrial areas of health risk, such as organo-phosphate pesticides, PCBs and dioxin.
  • National Council Against Health Fraud, US (NCAHF)
The 'Quackbuster Conspiracy' was started shortly after the American Medical Association (AMA) lost a court battle to the chiropractors in a case begun
in federal court in 1976. The federal judge ordered the AMA's covert operation to shut down and to leave the chiropractors alone. The AMA files, library, etc., ended up in Stephen Barrett's 1800-square-foot base-ment in Allentown, PA. Barrett is an unlicensed psychiatrist, and one of the US's leading 'quackbusters'. The newly form-ed quackbusters quickly set up a series of interlinked websites and mastered the art of getting first-page listings on Google. These sites include NCAHF, Quackwatch, Acupuncture-watch, Allergywatch, Autism-watch, Bioethicswatch and Cancer Treatment Watch.
The PR agency Greys put the finishing touches to the emergent campaign. In his book The Great Medical Monopoly Wars (1986), P. J. Lisa suggests that the Pharmaceutical Advertising Council linked up with the FDA to organize campaigns against 'quackery' and to promote articles in newspapers, television pro-grammes and advertisements. He names the companies which supported these promotional strategies in the 1980s as Lederle, Syntex and Hoffmann-LaRoche, and says that Paul Chusid, a past President of Grey Advertising, which handled both Syntex and Lederle accounts in America, told him that many of the 'health fraud' campaigns originated in his office.
  • Radiation, Risk and Society Advisory Group

This is probably the most important risk-spin organization in Britain. The purpose of the group was originally to spin
the work of the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), but it soon changed its remit to cover and spin all environmental threats to health. It is, in effect, the government's own crisis PR organization concerned with all aspects of public health and is a clear signal to the population that, in any future public-health crisis, the government will lie, and lie, and lie, and lie again.
  • Regester Larkin

Regester Larkin is a risk-management PR company co-founded by Mike Regester and Judy Larkin. Larkin is also on the advisory board of Anglo-American risk-management PR company ECHO, which has a very large client list that includes AstraZeneca and Zeneca Agrochemicals, Bayer, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-LaRoche, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Hill & Knowlton, Dow Chemical, Cellnet, Pfizer, Parke Davis and Rh^one-Poulenc. ECHO has worked for a number of UK government departments, including the DTI, the Ministry of Defence, the Industrial Development Board for North-ern Ireland and the Advertising Standards Authority.
  • Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE)
Created in 1991, RISE is affiliated to the American Crop Protection Association (ACPA), and is a lobbying and public-relations trade organization set up to defend 'urban usage' of specialist pesticides in and around homes, businesses and public buildings-in fact, everywhere.
  • Science Media Centre

The Science Media Centre is supported financially by, among others, vaccine-manufacturing companies Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Chiron, Glaxo-SmithKline, Wyeth and PowerJet, as well as other pharmaceutical interests, which include Eli Lilly, manufacturers of Prozac, Elsevier, publishers
of The Lancet, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Pfizer. The centre is supported by Syngenta, the world's leading agribusiness company, and science organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Medical Research Council, and a scattering of food and drink companies. The two large media interests that give money are the BBC and Rupert Murdoch's News International. Murdoch's son James is a board member of drugs giant GSK.
  • Science Media Centre advisory group
The Science Media Centre advisory group is made up of 16 high-ranking scientists. The SMC's Science Advisory Panel showed strong links to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, and to the pharmaceutical industry and the biotech and GM industry. Non-scientific advice is readily available on ME/CFS, Gulf War syndrome (GWS), multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and cellular-phone-linked illnesses.
  • Sense About Science (SAS)
Sense About Science is a charity [sic] set up by Lord Dick Taverne, PR rep for the drugs industry, in 2002. On leaving Prima Europe and
GPC, Lord Taverne began championing these interests through the Science and Technology Committee in the Lords and through SAS. SAS opposes homeopathy, all alternative health modalities and any kind of religious beliefs.
  • Skeptics
Skeptics were spawned by CSICOP in different countries and in a variety of forms. Although they are meant to be rationalists with a developed critique of the irrational, they more usually present themselves as aggressive male dogmatists who argue blindly in favour of corporate science. Skeptics run angry, global campaigns, sometimes with a dash of verbal violence, to shut down organi-zations that support alternative medicine or counsel parents on vaccine damage.
  • The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)
Created in 1993, TASSC began as a front for cigarette manufacturers to discredit environmental tobacco-smoke research. It has advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates and pesticides. TASSC remains one of the most effective propaganda groups that protect industry competitiveness. Its mission statements suggest, amongst other things, that it would "prepare and place opinion articles in key markets", "fake citizens' groups", and engage in the "intensive recruitment of high-profile representatives from business and industry, scientists, public officials, and other individuals interested in promoting the use of sound science [sic]".
Martin J. Walker

This is an extract from Martin J. Walker's latest book, Dirty Medicine: The Handbook. Copies are available for lb12.50, inclusive of p&p, a saving of lb6 to all WDDTY readers. Cheques should be made payable to Martin Walker, and sent to: Slingshot Publications, BM Box 8314, London WC1N 3XX.

WDDTY VOL. 22 NO. 5


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