This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.
Health care is a human right and most developed countries guarantee universal health care coverage to all their citizens. The United States of America is an exception to this rule among developed countries, because in the U.S., powerful for-profit industry interests including the insurance, drug and medical establishments have thwarted health care reform for decades to ensure their continued profits.
Some of the common issues in health care-related public relations (PR) are discussed below.
- 1 Insurance Industry Manipulations
- 2 National Health Care Plan
- 3 Disease Mongering
- 4 Drug industry PR
- 5 Industry Payola
- 6 The politics of cancer
- 7 The Food and Drug Administration
- 8 Access to health care
- 9 Debating Quackery
- 10 Other issues
- 11 Related SourceWatch articles
- 12 External resources
Insurance Industry Manipulations
Wendell Potter was formerly Vice President of Corporate Communications for the CIGNA corporation. He left CIGNA in early 2008 and in May, 2009, became Senior Fellow on Health Care with the Center for Media and Democracy. On June 24, 2009 he testified before the U.S. Senate in Washington, DC and since has been sharing his knowledge of health insurance industry PR and lobbying with the public.
National Health Care Plan
Disease mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported. --BBC News
Regarding the "bird flu" pandemic scare perpetrated by the faith-based, science-free Bush regime, an article by Peter Doshi on 21 March 2006 in Christian Science Monitor notes that "There are better ways to promote America's health than selling sickness through the language of fear. Before the government employs "all instruments of national power," including "quarantine authority," as the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza declares, we need to be told what "pandemic flu" really means. So far, we have not been given the full story in plain language."
Drug industry PR
- "While the common image of the legal drug industry is of workers in white lab coats, the reality is that public relations, marketing and administration commonly absorb twice the amount spent on drug research and development." 
- "Overall, the drug industry spent $235.7 million from 1997 to 1999 to lobby officials in Congress, and the executive branch. This amount does not include tens of millions more spent on television, radio and newspaper ads, direct mailings and telemarketing efforts." 
- "In 1999, the five networks, including CNN and Fox News, received $569 million in advertising revenue from pharmaceutical companies, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In 2004, that number had nearly tripled, to $1.5 billion." 
U.S. drug companies spent more than 800 million dollars over the past seven years in campaign donations and lobbying that have produced favorable laws and tens of billions of dollars in extra profits, according to a 2005 report by the Center for Public Integrity. 
American Diabetes Association
15 May 2005: "After the American Diabetes Association received a large gift from major manufacturer of sugar-sweetened beverages [Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, the third largest soft-drink manufacturer in the world, after Coca-Cola and PepsiCo], its top medical official is claiming that sugar has nothing to do with diabetes."  ref also:Corporate Crime Reporter 20(9), May 16, 2005
National Institutes of Health
"Internal investigations at the National Institutes of Health have found 44 of the agency's medical researchers violated conflict of interest rules by their relationships with private companies." --Free Speech Radio News, 15 July 2005
The politics of cancer
The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society (ACS) are not immune to the influences of pharmaceutical and chemical companies which profit from detection and treatment, and are at risk of exposure for contributing to environmental pollutants and product toxins in general use.
- Deana Nyenhuis. Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Ill.: Jun 25, 2003. pg. 18
- The sad truth about the stark rise in childhood cancer:[Chicago Final Edition], Samuel S Epstein and Quentin D Young Dr. Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Ill.: Jun 17, 2003. pg. 17
- Cancer Prevention Coalition
Cancer Prevention Coalition at PreventCancer.COM is clearly confronting the conflicts of interest within the American Cancer Society.
Contrast with preventcancer.ORG, registered in 2002 to Cancer Research Foundation of America, later the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation which claims to focus on prevention "through lifestyle changes or early detection followed by prompt treatment", the same line offered by ACS. Talking about "lifestyle changes" in the presence or context of childhood cancer is the height of stupid hypocrisy at best. Then, they're openly sponsored by Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline and have no interest whatsoever in prevention.
The National Academies .... Institute of Medicine .... National Cancer Policy Board .... Project: Fulfilling the Potential for Cancer Prevention and Early Detection .... will describe the potential reduction in cancer-related illness and death using two cancer prevention and control strategies--behavioral risk factor modification and cancer screening. The report will:
1) review factors influencing the decisions of consumers, health care purchasers, and providers when considering cancer prevention and control interventions;
2) assess whether cancer prevention interventions are effectively used; and 3) identify the barriers to their use. The report will conclude with recommended policies to promote evidence-based cancer prevention practice within health care and community practices.
A list of the sponsors are as follows:
- National Cancer Institute
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Cancer Society
- Amgen, Inc.
- Abbott Laboratories
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc.
Source Reference: Project Page and Final Report
- does little more than blame the victim for lifestyle; which is a preposterous conclusion for childhood cancers; and does not mention environmental toxins as contributory.
"Despite the undeniable success of the National Institutes of Health as the world's largest supporter of biomedical research and training, important organizational changes are needed at the agency for it to meet future challenges effectively, says a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. In particular, changes are required to allow NIH to devote additional resources to innovative interdisciplinary research that reflects strategic objectives and cuts across all of the agency's institutes and centers, said the committee that wrote the report. ...
... The special status granted to the National Cancer Institute by the National Cancer Act should be reconsidered, the committee said. Because the NCI director is appointed by the president and the institute's budget is set without input from the NIH director, it is possible that an unnecessary rift may be created between the goals and leadership of NIH and those of NCI." 
The Food and Drug Administration
Debate exists over whether and to what extent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures safe and effective remedies, favors the products of large drug companies over other practitioners, prevents effective treatments from reaching the consumer, or conversely lets dangerous treatments go on the market without adequate review.
Some criticisms of the FDA include:
- Dr. Ralph Moss reviews Accelerated Approval, 27 Sept. 2003 (link not active yet)
- To those of us who have long championed the cause of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), this accelerated approval process is filled with bitter irony. I know of no CAM treatments that have been given accelerated approval. It is Big Pharma that reaps the benefit of this relaxed stance, while the FDA gatekeepers remain vigilant against CAM advocates and practitioners. CAM is still held to the high standards of Phase III RCTs [Rigorous randomized controlled trials] ....which, let's face it, are nearly impossible for "the little person" to finance or arrange. And so a great many potentially useful treatments are excluded from mainstream medicine by the same regulators who admit dubious pharmaceutical treatments on the basis of flawed and abbreviated clinical trials.
- The undisguised bias of the FDA towards Big Pharma breeds cynicism, bitterness and paranoia in the public. Ironically, it also opens the door to health frauds, since it lends credibility to the often-heard claim that the US government is not seriously interested in evaluating treatments that do not emerge from Big Pharma.
- The New FDA Investigative Series by the LA Times, Dec. 2000; "Once a wary watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration set out to become a "partner" of the pharmaceutical industry. . . . How a new policy led to seven deadly drugs."
- An Interview with David Graham, "Blowing the Whistle on the FDA", International Monitor, December 2004: "Two-thirds of FDA scientists are not confident that products approved by FDA are safe. Eighteen percent say that they have been pressured to change their conclusions. Those are horrible statistics for an agency that is supposed to be evidence based and science based."
Processed Food Industry
Access to health care
- Emergency Medical Care: Robert Pear, Emergency Rooms Get Eased Rules on Patient Care, NYT, September 3, 2003: "The Bush administration is relaxing rules that say hospitals have to examine and treat people who require emergency medical care, regardless of their ability to pay.
- There should probably be stuff here about the fight over universal health care as well.
- Death by Medicine
- National Council Against Healthfraud
- Quackwatch Sites and Affiliates
- Task Force for Veterinary Science
- The Millenium Project
- The Green Light
- The Quack Files
- Confessions of a Quackbuster
- Skeptic's Dictionary
- Skeptic Report
- Anti-Quackery Ring
Turning a blind eye to the poisonous facts: "Trade Secrets"
Trust Us - We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future
Violations of Federal Law
Shankar Vedantam, 6 July 2004, Washington Post, "Drugmakers Prefer Silence On Test Data"
- The pharmaceutical industry has repeatedly violated federal law by failing to disclose the existence of large numbers of its clinical trials to a government database, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Alternative medicines?
- American Council on Science and Health
- Coalition for Health Insurance Choices
- Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Reform
- Citizens' Health Care Working Group
- Council for Affordable Health Insurance
- Health Benefits Coalition
- Health Care America
- Health care tax parity
- Healthcare industry
- Healthcare Leadership Council
- Mental health care
- National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act of 2005
- Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN)]]
- NHS Plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
- Single Payer Action
- State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) (U.S.)
- U.S. prescription drug system
- U.S. prescription drug system/importing drugs
- U.S. presidential election, 2004: Health Care
- Universal health care
- Wendell Potter
- "Health Care Industry Offers Cure for PR Slowdown".
- NIH to launch Ethics Review; "The National Institutes of Health (NIH), stung by recent allegations of financial wrongdoing on the part of some present and former senior officials, plans to announce today (December 10, 2003) a major review of how the agency handles conflict-of-interest matters when top agency employees receive lucrative consulting contracts from private companies."
- The Los Angeles Times on Sunday (December 7) reported that several high-level NIH scientists and officials had received more than $2.5 million in fees and stock options from drug companies for consulting outside of their government work over the past 10 years., with individual case studies.
- also  and 
- Common Cause reports on Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures of the Tobacco Industry and Its Allies
- Trudy Lieberman, Bitter Pill
- Public Citizen's WorstPills dot org