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Originally published November 21 2004

Big Tobacco racketeering charges mirror pharmaceutical industry crimes

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

The United States Justice Department charges that under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), cigarette companies have deceived the public for decades in an effort to sell their products. Few would deny the deceptions, except perhaps the tobacco companies themselves. But what's most intriguing about this effort to prosecute Big Tobacco for racketeering is that the racketeering charges almost perfectly describe the behavior of Big Pharma (drug companies) today.

Consider: the charges against Big Tobacco are based on what the Justice Department calls the "seven pillars of fraud," according to the New York Times: that the companies denied the damaging health effects of smoking; promoted what they described as independent research, which they financed; denied that smoking was addictive; denied that cigarette makers manipulated the level of nicotine in their products; promoted cigarettes that were called "less hazardous," against scientific evidence that they were not; marketed to children as young as 12; and suppressed evidence to keep documents out of the public realm and litigation.

Let's look at these more closely to see how they resemble the actions of Big Pharma today:

The companies denied the damaging health effects of smoking
Today, drug companies deny the damaging health effects of taking prescription drugs. As literally hundreds of thousands of Americans are killed each year by prescription drugs, including at least 27,000 by Vioxx (or 56,000+ if you believe senior FDA researcher Dr. David Graham), the drug companies deny their products are dangerous at all. Even after drugs like Rezulin are recalled, no drug company admits they caused any damage to the health of anyone.

Promoted what they described as independent research, which they financed:
The drug companies are doing the exact same thing. They're funding so-called "independent research" that is actually highly-distorted science, carefully designed to minimize the dangerous side effects of drugs while exaggerating (or outright inventing) apparent benefits. Clinical trial researchers, for their part, know that if they don't produce positive results for the drug companies, they'll never find work in the industry again. Here's another example of fraud: many so-called "peer reviewed" articles published in medical journals are actually ghost-written by drug companies themselves, even while the names of other doctors (who receive $10,000 checks if they go along with the scam) appear as the "authors."

Denied that smoking was addictive:
For their part, the drug companies have denied that antidepressant drugs cause children to commit suicide and think violent thoughts. Yet the evidence has been clear for years. In fact, one drug company actually buried their own evidence showing a strong link between SSRI drugs (antidepressants) and suicidal thoughts in children. Still today, nobody talks about the fact that the two Colombine High School killers were taking antidepressant drugs when they slaughtered their classmates with automatic rifles. Nor that Phil Hartman's wife, who killed the famous comedian and then took her own life, was also on SSRIs. There are probably tens of thousands of violent acts (including suicides) committed each year in the United States alone that are caused by antidepressant drugs, yet Big Pharma denies everything.

Denied that cigarette makers manipulated the level of nicotine in their products:
Similarly, the drug companies deny that they created fictitious diseases like ADHD and "General Anxiety Disorder" in order to sell mind-altering drugs to people who have absolutely no medically-measurable symptoms of disease whatsoever. The common diagnosis of these diseases has no scientific basis. They were invented and promoted by the psychiatric industry and drug companies in order to financially enrich both.

Promoted cigarettes that were called "less hazardous," against scientific evidence that they were not:
The drug companies have done exactly the same thing: Vioxx, for example, was promoted as a "safer" anti-inflammatory drug. All COX-2 inhibitor drugs were pushed heavily to physicians based on distorted science, funded by the drug companies of course, who claimed the drugs were "less hazardous" than other anti-inflammatory drugs which are linked to gastrointestinal bleeding. But now we know, following the Vioxx scandal, that COX-2 inhibitors actually cause heart attacks and strokes, much like cigarettes do. We also know that drug companies and the FDA were fully aware of this fact several years ago, and yet sought to deceive the American public for as long as possible in order to keep selling drugs.

Marketed to children as young as 12:
Today, children as young as three years old are being put on antidepressant drugs. Drug companies are actively pushing drugs like Ritalin and antidepressant drugs to teenagers, children and even infants! And it's the same marketing strategy as Big Tobacco: if you mess up these kids' brains at a young enough age, you'll have a customer for life! And one of the fastest ways to create a psychotic adult is to dose a child with Ritalin and SSRI drugs for as long as possible. That's exactly what's going on today, and the drug companies continue to push for the heavy use of mind-altering drugs in our nation's youth.

Suppressed evidence to keep documents out of the public realm and litigation:
The drug companies have done this on numerous occasions. The Wall Street Journal recently published internal emails from Merck, detailing how the company was fully aware of the heart attack dangers posed by its Vioxx drug more than four years ago, and yet the company buried the information and even designed new studies in a way that would conceal the cardiovascular risk. Other drug companies have been caught burying evidence showing the suicide dangers of antidepressant drugs. And these are just the episodes we caught -- it all appears to be business as usual for Big Pharma: hide the bad news from the FDA and the public for as long as possible in order to keep selling dangerous drugs.

It's time for a criminal investigation of Big Pharma

If these seven pillars of fraud describe the criteria by which the U.S. Justice Department is going after Big Tobacco, then Big Pharma should be next in line for federal prosecution. Their crimes are almost identical.

Without a doubt, tobacco companies have no place in a civilized society. Their products kill people, and they are deceptively created and marketed in a way that ignores public safety in order to generate profits. But prescription drugs are no different. They are deceptively created and marketed to virtually the entire population, even while they are harming the very people they claim to be helping.

It's time for the Justice Department to charge the pharmaceutical industry with racketeering. Because the activities of drug companies, combined with the criminal actions of the FDA, are nothing short of a criminal racket designed to deceive the American public in order to generate profits. It's classic RICO behavior. In fact, it would be difficult to find a more relevant example of racketeering than what's happening today in the pharmaceutical industry.

Physicians promoted tobacco and drugs

If prescription drugs are so dangerous, you might ask, then why are so many physicians still strongly in support of them? The answer is that not too long ago, physicians were strongly in favor of cigarettes, too! In fact, a quick search through historical print ads in mainstream magazines like TIME showed physicians actually endorsing cigarettes. Smoking was good for your health, doctors insisted. And they argued over which brand of cigarette helped you the most!

It just goes to show you that doctors can be trained to push practically anything to the public, as long as there's a buck involved. It could be the most dangerous product ever created, and yet physicians will happily stand behind it and even prescribe it to patients. That's not an exaggeration: it's historical fact. (The AMA isn't too proud of that, so you won't find it mentioned in the AMA's history books...)

Today, physicians are prescribing another dangerous class of products to consumers: prescription drugs. And they are causing just as much death and suffering as tobacco products. Simultaneously, they're generating substantial profits for powerful corporations, just as cigarettes once did.

But more and more physicians are wising up. It took time to educate physicians about the dangers of smoking. Today, no doctor in their right mind would prescribe cigarettes to patients. As doctors learn more about the deception of the drug industry and the dangers of prescription drugs, increasing numbers of them will turn to alternative medicine, herbal medicine, nutrition, prevention and other modalities that aren't hyped by a criminal-minded industry like Big Pharma.

In time, physicians will look upon prescription drugs in much the same way tobacco products are viewed today. Eventually, even the Justice Department will get involved, and we'll finally see criminal prosecutions of drug company executives who are, in fact, responsible for the killing of countless Americans in their quest to generate profits for shareholders. What is happening today is nothing short of a chemical holocaust. It is a crime against humanity, and just like the crimes committed by Big Tobacco, the Big Pharma racketeering crimes will not be tolerated forever.


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