Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tom Cruise: Who Does He Think He Is - 2

One reason Tom Cruise's statements were mostly brushed under the rug, with few (in the media) bothering to consider whether any evidence supported them is extremely simple:


Billions of dollars each year are earned by the pharmaceutical companies who sell the drugs promoted by psychiatrists and prescribed by doctors and others (whoever can win the legal right to prescribe them – psychologists in some states).

To keep that flow going, the pharmaceutical companies finance the American Psychiatric Association and various pharmaceutical front groups (for example NAMI – National Assoc. For the Mentally Ill – is largely financed by the drug industry, as is CHADD, a similar organization that claims to advocate for those suffering from "ADD" - Attention Deficit Disorder. Both organizations simply echo the pharmaceutical line and promote the drugs. Both organizations revealed, only under considerable pressure from alternative media sources (like Mother Jones) the millions they receive from Eli Lilly and other drug companies.

To keep that flow going, the pharmaceutical companies spend billions wooing doctors, giving them, not just free samples, but also free trips to conventions in Hawaii or Las Vegas, sporting events, and various gatherings (with fancy hotel rooms and meals) where they get "educated" on the latest drugs. Medical students often depend upon pharmaceutical-sponsored lunches and other gifts to get through medical school.

To keep that flow going, the pharmaceutical companies BUY spokespersons from the fields of medicine and psychiatry, by paying them large sums to give talks at conventions or to sign their names as co-authors to studies favorable to their drugs (studies written by hacks hired by the drug companies). Drug companies also endow university laboratories and other facilities. Recently, forexample, David Healy, a prominent researcher, had a job offer from the University of Toronto retracted, immediately after he spoke out against the efficacy of certain psychiatric drugs -- drugs whose maker had just made large donations to that university.

To keep that flow going, the pharmaceutical companies BUY the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that is supposed to protect us from dangerous medications. Several studies over the years (when some drug is finally found to be deadly, and people look back to see who approved it) find that the FDA "scientists" who approved it all had financial ties to the company that developed the drug and/or to the drug companies in question -- had accepted large payments from them to give talks, owned their stock, etc.

Also, these scientists usually come to the FDA from the drug companies and look for work at the drug companies (or doing drug-company-funded research at colleges) when they leave the FDA. For example, the guy who approved NutraSweet [Aspartame], already previously rejected as bad stuff, was boosted into the post of head of the FDA by the machinations of the head of the company that made NutraSweet (Searle). The new head of the FDA promptly pushed through a quick approval of NutraSweet. Soon after, he left the FDA and took a well-paying position at Searle. By the way, the head of Searle who arranged all this was a fellow named Donald Rumsfeld.

(And, by the way, many of the lousy side-effects of aspartame are the ones "treated" by other drugs. For example, it increases depression. A win-win situation for the drug companies.)

To keep that flow going, the pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy print and TV ads for their drugs. If drug companies withdraw advertising from a magazine (like TIME) or a TV station, that's a huge loss of revenue. Next time you're watching commercial TV some evening, count the ads for pharmaceutical company products – not just for psych. drugs, but for all their products (for pain relievers, nasal sprays, Viagra and Cialis, drugs for heartburn and indigestion, drugs for ulcers and reduction of cholesterol, etc.

The companies that produce anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs and Attention Deficit drugs, etc., are the same companies that produce all the other drugs and that pay for all that advertising, so a media company wants to please the pharmaceutical companies. There are occasionally some "hard-hitting" exposes of pharmaceutical corruption that has been known about for years and that don't go very deep, but by and large, the drug companies are protected.
And that brings us back to Tom Cruise. The "extremist" Tom Cruise is simply a media creation. Cruise is a humongous celebrity, maybe the top box-office earner in Hollywood, so gets appearances (though not as many since the Matt Lauer show). The media stifle the truth about psychiatry: There are many doctors and even psychiatrists (with all the academic credentials and honors you can eat), who have been trying to tell us for years what Tom Cruise told Matt Lauer, but they aren't allowed on prime-time network TV. But Cruise, the star, had the opportunity. So Cruise took his shot.

I suspect the networks were torn: If they censored it, they'd lose huge ratings, perhaps the most re-watched Today show ever, all that controversy. On the other hand, they might lose the drug money if they ran it. But, they thought, he's just an actor, and besides he belongs to THAT religion. It'll be easy to make him look ridiculous, so let's go with it.

And that's why the media turned on the blitz and worked so hard to make Tom look silly. One example of their tactics: Bringing on Scharfstein and Glenmullin to discuss Tom Cruise's remarks. The set up is, here's Scharftein from the APA, who thinks psychiatry is peachy keen, and here's Glenmullin, who disagrees, thinks the drugs are overprescribed and that psychiatry needs a little patch-up work here and there, but basically agrees with Scharfstein about the value of the drugs and the fake medical science of psychiatry. So these two are presented to us as experts from opposite sides of psychiatry (which they are not; they are mainstream psychiatrists with minor differences). It follows, then, that Cruise, whose statements are far more radical than Glenmullin's, must be an "extremist".

That also explains why the "experts" (psychiatrists all) were lobbed softballs, asked no hard questions. For example, Cruise said there's no valid science behind psychiatry, but when these psychiatrists called that nonsense, no one asked them to cite the scientific studies that have validated psychiatry. (There are none -- none that can't easily be impeached by anyone who knows how to read and evaluate such studies.)

That's my take on how it happened that Tom Cruise told some sharp truths on network TV, and the media jumped all over him and did their best to make him look like a fool.

But there are other reasons why Tom Cruise's remarks appeared strange or extremist or could so easily be made to look that way, despite the overwhelming evidence that the Emperor of Psychiatry is stark naked. I'll cover those other reasons in future ramblings.

1 comment:

Pam said...

In the sixth paragraph, there is a typographical error. The sentence reading "David Healy, a prominent researcher, had a job offer from the University of Toronto, immediately after he spoke out against the efficacy of certain psychiatric drugs" should say "David Healy, a prominent researcher, had a job offer from the University of Toronto RETRACTED, immediately after he spoke out against the efficacy of certain psychiatric drugs".