I have never claimed myself a journalist – I write what I write to entertain, not inform – the fact that my material has educational value is insignificant to my desire to simply write what I think and feel. Recently, however, I was watching Bill Maher on CNN, who mentioned something about how the leading contributors to the Partnership for a Drug Free America had their own agendas. I went to their official website and found a list of their corporate sponsors, and was so repulsed by my findings that I am compelled to inform you of them.
The PDFA has fifty-two corporate partners – fifty-two companies that contribute money to free America of drugs. Of these fifty-two businesses, there are only six common fields, one of which being philanthropy. I believe the final five are linked very closely, and I hope to explain why a little bit better later. These industries are automotive, investing firms, business consultant firms, medical suppliers/manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies. Two of the automotive businesses were GM and GE, which also made up two of the medical suppliers/manufacturers. I had a rather difficult time understanding exactly why business consultant and investment firms had a common interest in drugs until one realizes why the firms exist – money. A significant amount of stock held by Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is medical, more specifically pharmaceutical. Half of the businesses listed as the ten top holdings of the Fortune 500 as of August 31, 2003, donate money to the PDFA; two of them make drugs, two make medical equipment, one distributes oil, and one is an electronics developer.
What is peculiar is that Pfizer and Microsoft are at about the same growth rate, although Microsoft is obviously a bigger company, Microsoft doesn’t even pledge 10% of what Pfizer gives to the PDFA. In fact, the top seven non-philanthropic corporate partners are as follows: the Bristol-Myers Squibb, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Eastman Kodak, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, and the Schering-Plough Corporation. All except Eastman Kodak researches, manufacturers, and markets drugs. Kodak, while known best for cameras and film, is only slightly less well-known for their medical and dental supplies. After a slightly more extensive study of the PDFA’s corporate “Cool Book,” I found that about 30% of partners were pharmaceutical companies and another 8% were medical suppliers/manufacturers. This 40% of the Corporate Partnership donates over 75% of the money seen by the PDFA through corporate sponsorship, which begs the question, why?
I am sure if the partners could be here to write their answer it would look something like, “We, as multinational corporations, care deeply about the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of the United States. In an effort to show this care, as we know how bad drugs are for people, we are giving money to an organization to spread propaganda about illegal drugs in America.” It’s obvious why the drug companies are giving money to the PDFA – they wanted to buy the organization into their control – any time money is given from one party to another, something is bought by that party. After browsing through the PDFA’s website, where I found their corporate sponsorship in the first place, I happened upon a variety of rhetoric and propaganda that disturbed me; though manufactured drugs are seen as potential threats, they are brushed under the rug (or at least out shadowed) by the Big Bad Illegal Drug Problem. The Frequently Asked Question section featured fifty-three questions, ten dealing with marijuana, seven dealing with ecstasy, three with ketamine, two with cocaine, and only one dealing with manufactured drugs, in this case OxyContin. OxyContin is commonly called synthetic heroin and is recreationally abused throughout America; while it is meant to be eaten as a pill, it can be snorted or injected. And instead of giving a three paragraph answer like they did when listing marijuana’s negative effects, they simply mention that the effects of OxyContin are similar to that of other opiates and therefore the problems are usually the same as well.
So I have a hard time believing that fifteen drug companies, out of the kindness of their hearts, have decided to pledge lots of money so their business can be taken out by a seventeen-year-old non-profit organization. I have a much easier time believing drug companies use the PSFA to spread propaganda about “street drugs,” more recently marijuana. Apparently everyone agreed that the effects of marijuana were more important to stop than the effects of any other drug, or all drugs put together for that matter. Interestingly enough, PDFA does not list any positive aspects to any illegal street drugs, so I am forced to break it down for everyone. Use of cannabis may cause: mood lift, relaxation, pain relief, a greater appreciation of art, increased philosophical thinking, increased appetite, decrease in speed, tiredness, facial tension, reddened eyes, dry mouth, increased heart rate, dizziness, dependence, and/or memory problems. Based on the positive aspects of marijuana, one might ascertain that those with the most to gain in the elimination of cannabis would be those who compete against it. And, as it happens, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, and Bayer all contribute between $25,000 and $49,999 each year to the PDFA; each is the manufacturer of Tylenol, Excedrin, Advil, and Aspirin, respectively. So what is the recent increase in advertisements or, as they would call them, public service announcements, due to?
According to the PDFA, there was a dramatic decline of marijuana use among teens in the 1980s followed by a slightly less dramatic incline in the 1990s. This isn’t a difficult statistic to believe if one believes that the PDFA effects drug usage, which they love to claim as often as possible. They claim that there has been a 71% increase in adolescent use of MDMA since 1999, which is outrageous in compared to the 12% increase in marijuana usage over the previous six years. The PFDA would have us believe that, by telling kids to not smoke weed, they stopped smoking weed; unfortunately, their ad campaigns for ecstasy were short-lived not because of the effectiveness of the advertisements, but because ecstasy died as a drug in the late 1990s, just before it blew up again in the millennium, which is where they get an outrageous figure like 71% from. Instead of mentioning how the rave scene dropped off and the amount of X available went down (perhaps one caused the other – I don’t know), they just make it look like nothing happened and now all-of-a-sudden there’s a problem. This is their game – The Propaganda Game – the one I play now to get you to agree with me instead of them.
Let’s be honest, ads or PSAs or whatever is only so effective on the masses – they hit a lot of snags with people like me and virtually anyone who has said, “That’s totally not real…” to the television after watching this dreck. I can remember about ten (maybe fifteen) years ago, the PDFA ran an ad that showed a father confronting his son with pot he found in his closet or something, and the kid breaks down and says he does it because he saw his father do it. Now we have an ad that depicts a group of severely stoned, and all-black, if I recall correctly, kill a little girl on training wheels as they burn out of a parking lot. While I’d like to mention the obvious racial stereotype here, I won’t, I’ll just mention that I have never seen anyone peel out of a drive-through window while so stoned they don’t have the reaction time to avoid the child on the bike. My all-time favorite, however, is the one that came out about a year ago, which I believe starts off with a girl getting tucked into bed by mommy and daddy. The girl soon gets up, dresses up like a whore, steals her father’s car, goes to a party, begins drinking alcohol, later smokes some pot, then passes gets raped at the party in the middle of the living room. Marijuana…harmless…….?
Thank God we are a smarter people than that, right? All propaganda aside, the PDFA probably did help to decrease the usage of ecstasy in the late 90s, but it was more thanks to connections getting put in jail and kids we know having near-death experiences while rolling that made people stop doing it. All modern anti-ecstasy ads do now is tell old horror stories of candyflipping1 for six weeks straight and then going into a coma they never woke up from. But at least that’s effective, to a point. You can only care us so much before we stop taking you seriously, let’s face it. This are the same people that brought is Reefer Madness, kids, we can’t trust them. You want to know why you can’t trust them? Here, back to my rhetorical ranting!
There are few rational explanations for pharmaceutical companies doing what they are doing with the PDFA, and those that I could come up with are as follows:
They’re actually looking out for our best interests. Drug companies not only want to destroy drugs in this country just as much as everyone else, but they’re willing to put up almost all the cash to do it, as well. It’s like having the Ku Klux Klan say they want to sponsor a Black Panther rally – you know from the start that someone is not telling the truth, here!
They fear that drugs will eventually become destroyed and their types of drugs will follow suit. This is easily stopped by becoming a major player in the organization that has the power to destroy you. Keep friends close and enemies closer and all that mumbo jumbo.
They’re in it for the cash. Let’s think…hmm…if I was the four leading pharmaceutical pain killer manufacturers, I would know full-well I don’t have the inability to destroy my competition in the legal world. The easiest thing to do is attack the drug (or drugs) used in the illegal world in the hopes that those that stop using the illegal drugs will be forced to use the pills they provide.
I don’t know which you believe, but I really like the third. Lots of people are probably still having trouble here, so I’ll try to really get down and dirty when it comes to the scum of pharmaceutical companies. First, let’s discuss my theory – I suggest that a select fifteen of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies have come together in support of a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is the elimination of drugs in America. The PDFA love to use the term “illegal drugs” as often as possible because of it’s obvious rhetorical benefit. When a person hears “illegal drugs,” they don’t think of Little Johnny buying two Ritalin on the schoolyard or their nurse mother sneaking “free samples of a new painkiller from the pharmaceutical rep,” they think of a guy with a gun and a kilo of cocaine. They think Tony Montana, because that’s the last bad guy they could ever really identify again. Now the drug dealers wear suits and have business cards, a house in the Hamptons, a big fat 401(k), perhaps.
Now here come the people who want to tell me it’s not the pharmaceutical companies’ faults that people abuse prescribed drugs not prescribed to them. Yet somehow we can blame Pablo Escobar and George Jung. Hey, OK, I’m going all propaganda on you again, let’s get real, here. The fact is, drug companies spend millions of dollars marketing their drugs not only to the general public but also to doctors themselves. About a year ago, I worked as a waiter for a business in Ohio called The Inn at Turner’s Mill. One night we had a party – forty doctors and forty doctors’ wives – hosted by a pharmaceutical company. It was about a four-hour dinner with an hour-long break in the middle to watch a slide-show on the wonders of some new drug that helped people with high blood pressure. The tab was about ten grand. What’s even more frightening is that it was obviously worth it, or they wouldn’t have done it; just to cover their meal each doctor was practically obligated to prescribe it to at least a few patients. What do they care – they’ll bank regardless? And, really, the consumer doesn’t care either because his HMO is covering his pills, at least right now. Nobody notices that the rates for insurance are slowing going up because of all the new research being done to upgrade super-drugs that we already have. Sorry, folks, we don’t need OxyContin, codeine works just fine – I say if you’re in so much pain you think you need pseudoheroin, you need to pass out.
I have a mother in the industry, people, I hear horror stories. Farm Reps, as my mom and other nurses called them, would often bring tickets to sporting events and concerts and nonchalantly mention that their drug just passed FDA trails and will be ready to go in a week. How can you tell me that the pharmaceutical companies aren’t guilty? I can accept that they aren’t guilty of everything people, or even myself, say about them, but they do have a lot of stuff that needs work. Face the facts, statistically speaking only 3% of males and 1% of females have ADD and/or ADHD (just trust me on that statistic, please, I promise it’s not rhetoric), and yet there are classrooms in America where every other child is on a pill, most likely manufactured by one of the fifteen groups that supports an organization that claims its main goal is to keep kids off drugs! They claim that if a child or teen doesn’t use drugs before they leave adolescence, their chances of doing drugs later in life decrease dramatically; they also call marijuana a gateway drug. They don’t say anything about the kids I knew who bought Ritalin in 4th grade and upgraded to coke in 9th. What about the fact that almost everyone I know has tried Xanyx and yet none of them are prescribed? Where are these hypocrites now? Hiding behind their rhetoric and propaganda.
Do I blame pharmaceutical companies for kids selling their prescribed Ritalin or people selling their prescribed Xanyx? No, of course not. I’m not even an advocate of drugs, I think drugs are bad, but I will admit to disliking the idea of anyone telling me what I can do with my body (I know the ladies out there feel me on that one). What I do is make some people accountable for things. All the people who think heroin is different from weed is different from Prozac is different from crystal meth is different from cocaine has a lot to learn about drugs. If the PDFA has taught us anything, it’s that drug addiction isn’t specific to one drug – addiction often changes forms into different substance abuses. If you’re going to say that caffeine is a gateway for nicotine which is a gateway for THC which is a gateway for LSD which is a gateway for PCP, or whatever route you wish to take, you must acknowledge the fact that street drugs and manufactured drugs are equally risky. We as a society can no longer sit by as we are told how to live our lives; we must fight back and be heard. It’s up to us, my generation, the new generation. If you’re not twenty-five yet, you’re with me and the rest of us down to about the age of five, deep in the war zone none of us can see.
The war zone is that of misdirection. Harry Houdini was really good at this, as are sports teams and politicians. Misdirection is the art of effectively making you look the opposite way of what you should be looking at without realizing what is going on. Misdirection in relation to drugs is very simple and be seen in this situation with the PDFA a few ways. First, the obvious desire is of the pharmaceutical companies to misdirect the public’s fear of drugs away from manufactured drugs and back into street drugs. By the way, if it wasn’t for our friends the pharmaceutical companies, we wouldn’t have MDMA, LSD, or heroin. Thanks again. Another game of misdirection is used by the PDFA itself within the ads – by making you fear for your life or the lives of others, they are attempting to remove your rationality about the situation. When the mind is exposed to trauma, in this case a little girl getting railed by a car, we look at the joint and think, “Oh no! Marijuana’s not harmless; it just killed that poor little girl! Oh no…what if I was that guy in the car…” Gee, let me think, if I was that guy in the car I wouldn’t have clouds of smoke billowing out of my car while ordering burgers. The only ad I’ve seen that actually scared me was the newest I’ve seen for marijuana in which a man’s younger brother tells of how his older brother lives in the basement and does nothing, as opposed to drop out of school or go to jail or whatever. They’re still going for the fear aspect, but at least the PDFA has wised up and made it something we can really fear though, once we as people use our rational minds, we can understand that the likelihood of any person getting so severely addicted to cannabis that they cease virtually all function is unlikely. By you reading this, your risk has decreased exponentially.
And that’s very good. If only one person could read this and get off heroin or OxyContin (though I have no idea why they would), or if someone actually goes, “Wow, those pharmaceutical companies really aren’t very nice people,” then I have done my job here, whatever it was. The job is now yours – to take what is here and decide what’s true on your own. Maybe I’m not entirely right, or what’s infinitely more possible, perhaps I’ve missed something here. Regardless, take what I have said and say it to others. Think. Organize. Don’t allow yourself to be misdirected, in whatever form, be it our culture or our anti-culture. Don’t just take what they feed you because it’s on a screen and is endorsed by the government, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Pfizer, or Hallmark Greeting Cards. At the end of the day they want to do one thing, sell you, and they don’t care how they do it as long as the ink is black. Stay out of the red, my brothers and sisters, and return to the battlefield wiser.
Partnership for a Drug Free America Corporate Partners
Five philanthropic organizations
Betty Wold Johnson – Philanthropist and trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Charitable Trust; trustee, Planned Parenthood Association of the Mercer Area.
James E. and Didi Burke Foundation – No info
MetLife Foundation – supporting educational, health and civic and cultural organizations
Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust
The Starr Foundation – founded by insurance entrepreneur Cornelius Vander Starr – It makes grants in a number of areas, including education, medicine and healthcare, human needs, public policy, culture and the environment.
Chairman’s Circle ($50,000 and over)
Seven Partners: Five pharmaceutical companies, one medical supplier, and one overseer of OTC drugs
Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation – R&D pharmaceuticals – Excedrin
Consumer Healthcare Products Association – oversees distribution of OTC drugs
Eastman Kodak Company – R&D medical/dental supplies
Johnson & Johnson – R&D pharmaceuticals
Pfizer Foundation, Inc. – R&D pharmaceuticals
The Procter & Gamble Fund – R&D pharmaceuticals
Schering-Plough Corporation – R&D pharmaceuticals
Gold Medallion ($25,000 to $49,999)
Thirteen Partners: Eight pharmaceutical companies, three medical suppliers, one investment firm, one beverage company
Bayer Corporation – R&D pharmaceuticals – Aspirin
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company – R&D pharmaceuticals – Excedrin
The Coca-Cola Company – beverage company
The GE Fund – automobile manufacturer – “$8 billion global leader in diagnostic and interventional medical imaging, information and services technology.”
General Motors Foundation – automobile manufacturer – R&D medical equipment
GlaxoSmithKline – R&D pharmaceuticals – dabble in health care
H.J. Heinz Company Foundation – condiments2
Kimberly-Clark Foundation Inc. – Kotex, Huggies, Kleenex – medical instrument R&D, medical supplier
Major League Baseball Charity – everyone loves celebrity donors
McNeil Consumer Healthcare – R&D pharmaceuticals – Tylenol
Merrill Lynch & Company Foundation, Inc. – investment firm
Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. – R&D pharmaceuticals – Lamasil
Perrigo Company – largest OTC manufacturer in America
Pharmacia Corp. – recently acquired by Pfizer
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare – R&D pharmaceuticals – Advil, Robitussin
Silver Medallion ($15,000 to $24,999)
Five Partners: One oil company, one engineering company, one trucking company, one parcel service, one office supplier
Bechtel Foundation – engineering firm
ExxonMobil Foundation – oil company
PACCAR Foundation – trucking company
The UPS Foundation – parcel service
Xerox Foundation – R&D office supply
Bronze Medallion (5,000 to $14,999)
Seven Partners: Two investment firms, one food distributor, one pharmaceutical company, one automobile manufacturer, one phone company, one newspaper
BellSouth Corporation – phone company
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America – fourth largest mutual life insurance company in the United States
Hershey Foods Corporation – R&D food
Hoffman-La Roche Inc. – R&D pharmaceuticals – Rohypnol, Accutane
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. – investment firm
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. – R&D automobiles
Tribune New York Foundation – newspaper – gave about same $ to Arts Connection in NYC
PDFA Partner ($4,999 and below)
Fifteen Partners: Three corporate consultants, one investment firm, one data processor, one newspaper, one construction equipment developer, one insurance company, one hygienic supplier, one communications agency, one card and flower distributor, one electronics developer, one university
Automatic Data Processing – data processors and financial advisors
The Buffalo News – Buffalo, NY newspaper
Caterpillar Foundation – R&D heavy equipment
Chubb Foundation – within Chubb Corporation – see Mr. O’Hare c/o H.J. Heinz Co.
Colgate-Palmolive Company – R&D hygienic supplies
Creative Teen Concepts Inc. – no info
Direct Impact LLC. – communications agency
GJF Construction Corp. – no info
Hallmark Corporate Foundation – cards and flowers
Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. – corporate consultant
Microsoft – R&D electronics
Ohio National Foundation – investment firm
Omnova Solutions Foundation – R&D chemicals, decorative/building products
RoperASW LLC. – corporate consultant
The University of Pennsylvania – school – huge biomedical research department
Fifty-two Total Partners
Automobiles: 3 (with GM and GE)
Investment firms: 4
Medical Suppliers: 4
Office Suppliers: 1
Parcel Services: 1
Philanthropy: 7 (with CTC, Inc.)
Phone Companies: 1
2 Dr. Candace Kendle, former Chairman and CEO, Kendle International Inc. (“global provider of clinical development, regulatory/validation consulting and medical communications services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.”)
Mr. Dean R. O’Hare Director of Board – former head of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Chubb Corporation (insurance) – Fellow of New York Academy of Medicine (has two business degrees, no medical connections except for Chubb)
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