"Uh, durr. What's a regulatory compliance policy?"
I’ve written about Jake Crosby’s use of the “Big Pharma shill” gambit on countless occasions by now. So have lots of people, as evidenced from a basic Google search of his name. But it never ceases to astound me how often he uses the same one argument. This kid quite literally has no other argument but to apply his McCarthyist poisoning the well tactics on anyone who disagrees with him to the point that he’s a satire of himself.
Jake Crosby has absolutely nothing to say about the science of vaccines or the science of autism. Nope. He’s just going to accuse everyone he doesn’t like of being a commie…err, I mean a Big Pharma shill. And his recent application of this McCarthyism leveled against journalist John Stossel only illustrates how he doesn’t even understand what a conflict of interest looks like.
What relationship you might ask does Jake Crosby think constitutes a conflict of interest for John Stossel? Was he explicitly paid to use his medical credentials to endorse pharaceuticals? No. He’s not even a doctor. He’s just a journalist. Did a pharmaceutical company give him gifts? Nope. No, Jake Crosby thinks John Stossel has a conflict of interest because…
Wait for it.
Perhaps the answer best lies with the details surrounding his older brother, Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a hematologist and professor at Harvard Medical School with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Stossel has heavily supported in controversies where it has been on the receiving end of well-deserved criticism.
WHAT?! His brother is a doctor and you think that’s a conflict of interest? Oh, the stupid! It burns!
First of all, all doctors have SOME relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, in the same way all librarians have some relationship with the publishing industry. That alone does not constitute a conflict of interest. That’s absurd. Federal and state regulatory compliance policies are quite explicit with regards to what constitutes an unhealthy relationship between medial professionals and industry. And no journalism regulations forbid journalists from covering medical news stories because they have the audacity to have siblings. That’s just asshole dumb.
Anti-vaxxers pull this pharma and government conspiracy crap all the fucking time and it’s blatantly obvious that they don’t know a damned thing about the regulatory compliance policies in place that are specifically designed to prevent such conflicts of interest. Just once, I’d like to hear an anti-vaxxer articulate their specific objections to the Federal Anti-Kickback Law and Regulatory Safe Harbors or the industry self-regulating phrma code on interactions with healthcare professionals, as well as the anti-vaxxers’ proposed amendments to improve the efficacy of those policies. I’d also like to know if they feel the notoriously strict Massachusetts compliance and disclosure system is acceptable or if they think even that is too easily breached. But you’ll never see that because the vast majority in the anti-vax movement aren’t doctors and so have never even heard of these policies, let alone have thoughtful opinions about them, while those who are doctors happily choose to play on the others’ ignorance of the policies.
And of course anti-vaxxers love to exploit populist paranoia about the government to suggest an bin Laden/Hussein-like alliance exists between the pharmaceutical companies and the government when such an alliance has grown utterly preposterous when you look at recent history. The fact is that more than ever, federal prosecutors are mercilessly leaning on pharmaceutical companies (which is not to necessarily say the prosecutors’ actions have been unjustified). Take for instance, the 2001 case over the drug Lupron, where Tap Pharmaceuticals was forced to pay $875 million.
I’ll repeat that number to help you wrap your head around it. Tap Pharmaceuticals was made by the government to pay the sum of $875 million. If these guys are friends and co-conspirators, I’d hate to meet Tap’s enemies. This was at the time the largest criminal fine ever in a U.S. healthcare fraud prosecution. Then there’s the Allergen case from this year where Allergen was forced to pay $600 million, not to mention the Pfizer case from just last year that ended with Pfizer having to pay $2.3 billion dollars. That’s BILLION with a fuckin’ B!!! Oh yeah, that government and Pfizer are the best of friends. Clearly.
Then there’s the unfortunate tale of Dr. Gleason who the government chose to make an example of. Gleason is a pretty prominent psychiatrist in Baltimore who was hired by a company to do promotional speaker programs. It was not independent. He’s a paid agent. So he traveled around the country at the company’s expense. It was during this promotional speaker program, that he specifically talked about off-label uses of their product. He gave one of these presentations in New York and while standing on a train platform in Long Island, he was suddenly swarmed by a half dozen federal agents who went as far as to actually handcuff him. He was charged with criminal violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for promoting unapproved uses for the product. Gleason filed a motion to dismiss based on First Amendment grounds, claiming the right to express his opinion but given that he’s a medical doctor, the law specifically limits his speech, so that argument was summarily rejected by the board. The fact was that under the law, a medical professional hired as a speaker for a company makes you an agent of the company, meaning you’re held to the same rules as a sales representatives.
The law takes these issues very, very seriously. So I’m sorry but anyone who claims the government is somehow in collusion with the pharmaceutical companies is either completely ignorant of the facts, is lying, or is delusional. Further, even if a reporter did have what would actually constitute a conflict of interest, if they’re reporting the consensus view of every reputable health organization on Earth accurately, as Stossel does, why should their relationship to industry matter? From now on, I absolutely refuse to accept the “Big Pharma” conflict of interest excuse from anti-vaxxers unless they’re prepared to discuss specific problems with the current regulatory compliance policies as well as their proposed amendments to those policies. Otherwise, I will take their refusal to do so as a tacit admission that they are not properly informed about what those policies say and how well they’re enforced, and therefore their objections are nothing but an excuse to deny the facts and a waste of everyone’s time.