Monday, October 31, 2005

An Update: PhRMA Commissions a Thriller

We previously posted about how the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) paid for the writing of a thriller about terrorists poisoning drugs imported from Canada. This story was picked up by two major newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. New, increasingly bizarre details have emerged:
  • The publisher of the thriller, Phoenix Books, is owned by Michael Viner. Viner previous owned Dove Entertainment, which published books on the O. J. Simpson murder trial and the "society madam," Heidi Fleiss. Two of three authors of Dove's book on Fleiss sued Viner for sexual harassment, and the other won an award after she claimed Dove failed to pay her royalties.
  • Viner next founded Millenium Entertainment, which published "Burning Down My Master's House by disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair.
  • The writing of the book was supervised by a PhRMA marketing executive, who required that the book's villains be militant Muslims, but motivated by greed, not politics; that the book contain "frilly feminine stuff"; and that it incorporate long passages from congressional hearings.
  • Jayson Blair briefly served as editor for Phoenix on the project, but departed the project and the company after a "contentious phone conversation" with author Julie Chrystyn, and allegedly "trying to abuse his expense account."
  • PhRMA canceled the book project after paying authors Chrystyn and Kenin Spivack $100,000, but promised them another $100,000 "if they would agree never to speak ill of PhRMA or the drug industry for the rest of their lives. They refused."
  • PhRMA Senior Vice President for Communications Ken Johnson called the scheme "idiotic," and insisted that the PhRMA official who sanctioned the book contract was "a lower level employee who acted without authority," for whom the organization is "presently reviewing disciplinary options."
  • The employee was actually Valerie Volpe, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a "deputy vice president for federal and state affairs," (but documents on the web identify her as "Director of Patient and Professional Relations.)
  • The book, entitled the Karasik Conspiracy, is due to be published in December. "The villains of the plot have undergone yet another transformation. They're now a rainbow coalition of Bosnians, Eastern Europeans and Americans, including a stereotypical representative of an American corporation: to wit, a pharmaceutical company."
According to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Thomas Ginsberg, "This is no pulp fiction farce. Call it bookgate, an impossible-to-make-up public-relations disaster now dogging the pharmaceutical industry." Call it a another, particularly lurid example of how large health care organizations resort to deception and dishonesty to promote their causes.
What argument do they have that physicians and patients should trust them?

1 comment:

Michael Lascelles said...

Amazing stuff - keep digging it out!