Stealth marketing: doctors and public radio

Over at Slate, veteran health care journalists Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer raise tough questions about the lack of disclosure regarging four doctors’ ties to the makers of antidepressants, while they told audiences of public radio stations nationwide that the connections between suicide and antidepressants were largely overblown.

The radio program, Infinite Mind, produced the show in April titled Prozac Nation: Revisited.

Here is writers’ nutgraph:

"The radio show, which was broadcast nationwide and paid for in part by
the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, had the air of
quiet, authoritative credibility. Host Dr. Fred Goodwin, a former
director of the National Institute of Mental Health, interviewed three
prominent guests, and any radio producer would be hard-pressed to find
a more seemingly credible quartet. Credible, that is, except for a
crucial detail that was never revealed to listeners: All four of the
experts on the show, including Goodwin, have financial ties to the
makers of antidepressants. Also unmentioned were the "unrestricted
grants" that The Infinite Mind has received from drug makers, including Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Prozac."

Goodwin nor the show’s producers accepted Brownlee and Lenzers’
requests for interviews. At Slate, the writers don’t discuss whether
they believe the financial ties tainted the content or overall opinion
in the radio show. Their focus was on the disturbingly high prevalence
of similar undisclosed conflicts of interest in mainstream, independent

"But the larger point," they wrote, "is that
undisclosed financial conflicts of interest among media sources seem to
be popping up all over the place these days. Some experts who appear
independent are, in fact, serving as stealth marketers for the drug and
biotech industries, and reporters either don’t know about their
sources’ conflicts of interests, or they fail to disclose them to the

Brownlee and Lenzer rightfully put the onus on journalists to ask their
sources about conflicts of interest and disclose them. They encourage
journalists to e-mail them at for a vetted-list of experts without conflicts of interest.

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Ambulance DoctorDanGilles Frydman Recent comment authors
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Ambulance Doctor

Antidepressants are not suitable for all people. The problem is that nowadays to take antidepressants considers to be fashionable.


Current Depression Medications: Do The Benefits Outweigh the Harm? Presently, for the treatment of depression and other what some claim are mental disorders, some of which are questionable, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the drugs of choice by most prescribers. Such meds, meds that affect the mind, are called psychotropic medications. SSRIs also include a few meds in this class with the addition of a norepinephrine uptake inhibitor added to the SSRI, and these are referred to SNRI medications. Examples of SNRIs are Cymbalta and Effexor. Some Definitions: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter thought to be associated with mood. The hypothesis… Read more »

Gilles Frydman

These experts are not the only stealth marketers. Brownlee & Lenzer should write a follow-up article on the use of certain disease specific advocacy organizations for stealth lobbying at the FDA, stealth PR in the general media and marketing with their constituents. The total lack of regulation of the educational grants from the pharmaceutical industry to the advocacy organizations can be the best or the worst gift. Some companies will request help from the receivers of such grants through convoluted channels, in such ways that the appearance of independence will be complete. When it comes to medical news and scientific… Read more »