News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Making up stories isnít solution to drug imports

The facts about drugs are confusing enough; please spare us the fiction.

Apparently, though, the drug industry has enough money to give us both.

It tries to present the facts in a light most favorable to its interests. And now the Toronto Globe and Mail — published up in Canada where medicine is cheaper — reports that one of the United States' most powerful drug lobbies funded the writing of a novel designed to spook Americans about Canadian drugs.

According to co-author Kenin Spivak, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America paid Phoenix Books to publish "The Karasik Conspiracy" and planned to buy 40,000 copies.

The plot involved Balkan terrorists attacking the United States by poisoning low-cost prescription drugs that unsuspecting U.S. consumers bought over the Internet from Canada.

"They paid for the writing of the book," Spivak said, and "wanted the bad guys to be fundamentalist Muslims." As an editor, Phoenix hired Jayson Blair, a reporter fired by The New York Times for fabricating news stories.

Spivak himself said the project was hidden from PhRMA's bosses — "they have a real problem with financial control."

PhRMA blames a "rogue" employee. Ken Johnson, PhRMA's senior vice president of communications, said the project was discovered last summer and halted. He called it "a screwball idea ... something that we would never, ever support or condone." He said the association's president has established "institutional controls to make certain it would never happen again."

The novel, due to appear in December, has been rewritten. Villains now represent multiple religions, and one villain is a big pharmaceutical company eager to scare consumers away from Canadian drugs.

U.S. drug companies are understandably upset at the estimated $800 million worth of drugs that Americans bought last year from Canada. But if their industry wants to get some of that business back, we have two suggestions: Stick to the truth, and lower prices.

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