Friday, August 10, 2012

Hey NAQC, your hypocrisy is showing!

Imagine this - the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives holds a tobacco harm reduction conference, which turns out to be largely sponsored by Lorillard, R.J Reynolds and Ariva. Since CASAA already promotes the use of smoke-free alternative products such as those made by these companies (e-cigarettes, strips, sticks, snus and lozenges), no big deal, right? How do you think the anti-tobacco groups would react to finding this out? Do you think we would see numerous press releases about CASAA containing phrases like "paid shills" and "conflict of interest?"

"Talk to the hand." says NAQC
Now take a look at the original commentary and the follow up commentary by Dr. Michael Siegel, regarding the sponsorship of the North American Quitline Consortium's (NAQC) upcoming conference by three makers of nicotine addiction/cessation products: Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. Dr. Siegel points out that the NAQC conference will "include discussion of strategies for ensuring the effectiveness of quitlines. This encompasses important issues, such as the use of nicotine replacement therapy and other smoking cessation drugs in quitline advice."

Yet, NAQC's president and CEO, Linda Bailey, practically bristles at the idea that there is any conflict of interest with "partnering" with these companies and responds that NAQC is "proud to have them on-board" and looks forward "to working with these partners in the pharmaceutical industry to advance NAQC’s mission." The conference organizers take great pains in utilizing the phrase "evidence-based quitline services," but one would naturally  question who is providing the "evidence" on the effectiveness of NRT and other nicotine addiction treatments? Of course, insisting on "evidence-based" products also allows them an excuse for ignoring other products that may be better for the smoker who cannot or will not quit tobacco products.

Ms. Bailey states, "FDA-approved cessation medications are well-accepted evidence-based treatments for cessation. They are included as part of the U.S. Public Health Service’s Guideline on Tobacco Cessation Treatment. Currently, 75 percent of all U.S. quitlines provide medications along with counseling services. We hope to report 100 percent of quitlines are providing cessation medications to smokers in the near future. Providing medications as part of a quitline’s treatment protocol increases the likelihood that smokers will successfully quit." So, essentially, the goal is to get all smokers buying or receiving taxpayer-funded NRT products and pharmaceutical companies would have no interest in financially supporting this goal?

Remember that the FDA approves NRT and other nicotine addiction treatments based on submitted research and testing paid for by the company seeking drug approval and "effectiveness" is basically based upon outperforming a placebo by the smallest of margins. The drug companies pay the FDA to be tested and are usually approved. (A former FDA boss, who went on to work for a drug company, was  quoted by whistle blower Dr. David Graham as stating that the drug industry is the FDA's client, not the American consumer.) It seems obvious that only after being released to the public and after numerous reports of adverse health effects does the FDA pull a drug from the market and seriously review it. (Don't forget - industry-funded testing of tobacco products which don't support the ANTZ prohibitionist agenda, including e-cigarettes, is always "suspect" and always dismissed as "biased.") Also, while participants in smoking cessation trials are typically highly motivated to quit, the vast majority still relapse back to smoking. These are the "evidenced-based treatments" NAQC promotes and defends.

While CASAA and other tobacco harm reduction advocates can show similar (and much more concrete) scientific, "evidence-based" reasons for recommending smoke-free tobacco products for harm reduction, they know that the second they take money from any tobacco company, the accusations of "paid shills" and "conflict of interest" will start flying from groups such as NAQC. (Indeed, they get such accusations even without tobacco industry funding.) Yet, NAQC's receipt of money from pharmaceutical companies is somehow different, because (apparently) the pharmaceutical industry is nothing like "Big Tobacco." The pharmaceutical industry would never put a drug on the market that harms consumers.It would never exaggerate the effectiveness of its drugs (NRT treatments fail 97% of the time.)  It would never lie about that drug or deny the danger to protect its profits. The FDA would never allow a dangerous product (Chantix) on the market that needs to have "black box" warnings added after the fact, right? So, anything the pharmaceutical industry says and sells can be trusted, because it only has our best interests at heart rather than making a buck - or billions of bucks, to be more accurate.

It astounds me that they cannot see their own hypocrisy. Then again, maybe they can, but it simply better fits their ANTZ agenda to pretend it doesn't exist. Unfortunately, the rest of the public seems happy to oblige the delusion.