The line between researcher and pharmaceutical shill has been narrowing steadily during the past decades as the anti-smoking ideology accelerated. The line disappeared this year when "experts on smoking cessation" published a paper that espoused a stop-smoking plan that finally raised some eyebrows. For smokers who just can’t seem to quit smoking it’s time to treat them as patients who have a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure. Such recalcitrant smokers should take anti-smoking prescription drugs for years to curb tobacco cravings.

Arlene Weintraub’s Business Week report on this situation, linked with at bottom this page, misses on some points. Yes, we know that "tobacco cravings" is a nonsensical term and that the substance that is "addictive" is nicotine. We also know that upon ceasing to smoke the craving for nicotine ends after a few days or a week. Hard-core nicotine addicts, the author’s description, oxymoronic though it is, and other anti-smoking propaganda points riddle her piece. Still she does deserve credit for the actual thrust of this article.

Two of the "experts" advocating the perpetual consumption of anti-smoking prescription drugs are paid by the pharmaceutical industry to promote drug company smoking cessation "therapies". One of those drug companies is Pfizer, the manufacturer of Chantix, the usage of which some say leads to thoughts of suicide and other psychiatric symptoms. When a drug gets a bad reputation, as Chantix certainly has, a good marketing tactic is to summon up researchers to tout the controversial drug under the guise of ministering to the afflicted. The research paper, by the way, appeared just as the Food and Drug Administration was urging Pfizer to strengthen warnings on Chantix. The confluence of government scrutiny and the release of "independent" research urging long-term smoking cessation drug consumption fueled concern that drug company-paid experts were trying to protect a drug with U.S. sales of nearly $700-million in 2007 alone.

Not so, say the two researchers. They are as pure as the driven snow, exercising independent judgment when recommending Chantix and other smoking cessation drugs. They do admit, however, that they do not disclose their Pfizer connection to the hundreds of victim-patients they’ve hooked up to Chantix. Pfizer weighed in on the controversy decrying the "innuendo and distortion" to support the "empty charges" of doctors failing to disclose lucrative connections between themselves and drug companies.

All intelligent people need to realize is that the smoking cessation business is worth billions to the drug companies that finance the bulk of anti-smoking activism. That doctors, researchers and "experts" seek to get a slice of that pie is no surprise. What is a surprise, and a highly encouraging one at that, is that finally the incestuous relationship between drug manufacturer and drug pusher is becoming a topic of interest to the medical community.



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