Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World ReviewOct. 24, 2002 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Your health, their wealth | TV talk shows are as pure as the driven snow job. We know that. When stars deign to shmooze with Matt, Katie, Jay or Dave, chances are 193% that they've come to plug a movie, book or I'm-so-compassionate cause. We accept that.

What we cannot accept is the latest, sneakiest marketing ploy: celebrities "spontaneously" chatting about a prescription drug - thanks to a hefty fee from the drug company.

This has happened several times during the past year. Last winter, for instance, Kathleen Turner went on "Good Morning America" to talk about her arthritis. Then she just happened to mention a Web site where viewers could find out about "extraordinarily effective" new medications. This Web site is sponsored by drug companies Amgen and Wyeth.

And so, it turns out, is Turner. Too bad she never mentioned this before or during the interview.

Just as creepily, Olympic skater Peggy Fleming went on ABC to discuss her cholesterol problem (how fascinating!). Cameras on, she praised Lipitor, a drug made by Pfizer. What she neglected to praise was her Pfizer paycheck.

Most depressingly of all, even Lauren Bacall sank to this so-called stealth endorsing. In March, she made a rare appearance on the "Today" show to talk about a friend who suffered from the blinding disease macular degeneration. Then she name-dropped the eye drug Visudyne.

"It was the weirdest thing," says Erika Schwartz, a health writer who happened to be watching at the time. "She hadn't written a book, hadn't done any research, she just said, 'I had a friend of a friend, and I wanted to come out here and talk about this [drug].' To me, it was blatantly obvious."

In part, it was Bacall's blatancy that made the rest of the media sit up, too. As more and more instances of drug plugging came to light, several networks vowed to ban pill pushers from their shows.

But it won't work, says Barry Greenberg, president of Celebrity Connection, a Los Angeles firm that matches celebs with companies. "It's like campaign finance reform," he says. "You can figure out 27 ways to stop it, and someone will figure out the 28th way to [book a spokesman], and the Hollywood drug cartel moves on."

This is not only depressing, it's dangerous, says Christina Schlank, author of "Medicine and Money." "The Food and Drug Administration regulates prescription drug advertising on TV. But when a celebrity goes on and says, 'This drug helped me,' they don't have to say, 'and the side effects are blah, blah, blah.'" That's big stuff to skip.

Still, I have hope. While no one can doubt the drug companies' resourcefulness, there is one force in Hollywood that's even greater than greed: vanity. And pill shilling looks pathetic. "Now, when somebody does this, it's going to be the equivalent of getting caught in a Thighmaster commercial," predicts Syracuse University pop culture guru Robert Thompson.

Hollywood has always had a problem with drugs. But as Turner, Fleming and Bacall have, one hopes, learned: Next time, just say no.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


10/10/02: Sometimes death opens up the door
09/24/02: Reality hits Mickey
09/19/02: Should you report me to the authorities?
09/12/02: War and love: Romance rises from the ashes
08/30/02: If beer is good, spinoffs are great
08/13/02: Braving difficult steps
08/08/02: Can't trust those tourists!
08/02/02: Enquiring about the 'stars'? I already know
07/26/02: Reunions that defy history
07/18/02: Where'd all the logos go?
07/12/02: He's why Boomers leap and twist
07/09/02: Hold on, my molar's ringing
06/25/02: Pitching the fish fork
06/11/02: Water fad is bottled nonsense 06/11/02: 06/07/02: He who brings menus deserves praise
06/04/02: Relish This! The World Trade Center Hot Dog Guy has been found
05/23/02: The return of the tight squeeze
05/15/02: A Little Too Spicy
05/10/02: Okay, start the movie already!
05/07/02: If you win the lottery, you may be out of luck
05/01/02: Driven nuts by drive-time cell phoners
04/16/02: Chats of a lifetime
04/10/02: This Pet Has a Tail to Tell
03/26/02: Hey, New York - Take a Haiku
03/21/02: Your 'victim,' is my 'survivor' is somebody else's 'hero'?
03/19/02: Terrorists, get out your No. 2 pencils
03/14/02: Tribute Has City Back at its Windows
03/06/02: Dumping Ted: Gray Day For the Baby Boomers
02/27/02: Sometimes, lying's the best policy
02/20/02: The Fad That Won't Fade Away
02/12/02: The smoking gun of white-collar crime is making some folks very happy
02/05/02: Exterminators are evolving, too
02/01/02: Don't suffer do drugs
01/22/02: The Blue Light of Happiness
01/18/02: Marlboro's surprising gift to U.S.
01/08/02: Hospitals make me sick
01/02/02: Read-Aloud Resolutions
12/21/01: Nothing's Worse/Than Bad Verse
12/18/01: This Little Dog Bytes
12/13/01: Palm Pilot or Calendar? Paper Wins
12/07/01: The gift of 9/11
12/03/01: Altria Is Really Smokin'

© 2002, New York Daily News