Jayson Blair, reporter fired from NY Times, helped PhRMA scare consumers . . .
Sun, 23 Oct 2005
Below Peter Rost, V-P of Marketing at Pfizer who has turned whistleblower on the pharmaceutical industry sent us the most amazing example of this industry’s loathsome underhanded tactics aimed at scaring the American public – this time, with a book of fiction.
According to the co-author of the book, The Karasik Conspiracy, Kenin Spivak, the goal was simply “to scare Americans into opposing any amendment to existing legislation” that formally bans the import of low-cost prescriptions from Canada.
Ken Johnson, executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, acknowledged the hare-brained scheme – a book of fiction insinuating that terrorists will poison drugs imported to the US from Canada.
“This is the most outrageous example of deception and duplicity on the part of a Washington lobby in the history of the country.”
The NY Daily News reports: “In a tale worthy of a zany Washington satire – except for the lamentable fact that it’s true – the rich and powerful pharmaceutical lobby secretly commissioned a thriller novel whose aim was to scare the living daylights out of folks who might want to buy cheap drugs from Canada. When the project fell through in July, I’m told the drug lobby offered $100,000 to the co-authors and publisher in a vain effort to sweep it under the rug.”
Cindy Adams, NY Post gossip columnist refers to Jayson Blair who was involved in the scam– as “the N.Y. Times Liar Emeritus.”
Below are reports about PhRMA, Blair and The Karasik Conspiracty, in The Toronto Globe and Mail, the New York Post and New York Daily News.
Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
From: Peter Rost
Sent: Sunday, October 23, 2005 6:09 PM
Subject: Jayson Blair, reporter fired from NY Times, helped PhRMA scare consumers . . .
This story is simply getting more and more amazing by the day . . .
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have according to several news sources admitted that they paid a publisher to have a thriller written about Croatian terrorists using Canadian pharmacy websites to slaughter millions of Americans.
According to the New York Post’s Page Six, Jayson Blair working for Phoenix Books, was tasked with editing this book, called “The Karasik Conspiracy.” But now one of the two co-authors is accusing Jayson of lying–again, in the NY Post.
Meanwhile, PHRMA, scared by publicity surrounding this project now claims it was a “rough employee” at PHRMA who initiated, led and paid for this project, according to Toronto Globe and Mail, and that they have stopped funding the book. In fact, NY Daily News claims they offered $100,000 hush-money to kill the project. But the book is still getting published, in January 2006.
PHRMA also, according to NY Daily News, made several editorial suggestions. “They said they wanted it somewhat dumbed down for women, with a lot more fluff in it, and more about the wife of the head Croatian terrorist, who is a former Miss Mexico,” one of the authors told the newspaper. Apparently, women are among the most loyal buyers of Canadian drugs.
Stay tuned . . . and here are the stories:
TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL
U.S. drug group paid to support novel idea
By ALAN FREEMAN
Friday, October 21, 2005 Page A1
WASHINGTON — It’s a story sure to send a chill down the spine of the average American. A dastardly group of Balkan terrorists launches an attack on the United States by poisoning low-cost prescription drugs from Canada bought over the Internet by unsuspecting U.S. consumers.
Book ideas like this cross the desks of publishers every day but The Karasik Conspiracy is a special case.
The novel, due to appear in December, received funding from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, as the result of actions, it says, of a “rogue” employee.
According to one of the book’s co-authors, Kenin Spivak, the goal was simply “to scare Americans into opposing any amendment to existing legislation” that formally bans the import of low-cost prescriptions from Canada. He said that the book’s publisher, Phoenix Books, was paid an unspecified amount of money to publish the novel by the drug group, which also said it planned to buy 40,000 copies.
“They paid for the writing of the book,” Mr. Spivak said in an interview from Los Angeles.
The pharmaceutical group denies its “leadership” approved the book project but it admits that “a rogue employee” did arrange to make payments through a consultant for the book project before it was discovered last summer and halted, according to PhRMA’s senior vice-president of communications, Ken Johnson.
“We absolutely and positively did not commission the book,” he said. “We are open and transparent about everything we did.”
“We have credible safety-based arguments to support our position on reimportation,” he said. “We don’t have to resort to pulp fiction.”
Last year, Americans bought an estimated $800-million (U.S.) worth of drugs from Canada, a practice big pharmaceutical companies are working to stop, to protect their profitable U.S. sales. They have lobbied Congress and launched ad campaigns aimed at convincing Americans that drugs they order from Canada are potentially unsafe.
Several measures allowing drug imports from Canada and elsewhere have been introduced in Congress but have not been passed.
The story of The Karasik Conspiracy began last spring.
According to Mr. Spivak, a lawyer who said he was acting as a consultant approached PhRMA and then approached Phoenix Books with the book idea. The idea was presented to a representative Mr. Spivak believed was representing PhRMA, who approved it.
“Final approval of the book’s content was with PhRMA. They would not have to publish the book if they didn’t like it,” Mr. Spivak said. Under the arrangement, the group’s payments to the publisher were supposed to remain secret.
Michael Viner, president of Phoenix Books, was not available for comment.
Author and ghostwriter Julie Chrystyn was hired to write the book. Mr. Spivak, a telecommunications executive, signed on later and Jayson Blair, the reporter fired by The New York Times for fabricating news articles, was hired by Phoenix Books as an editor.
“He seemed conscientious,” Ms. Chrystyn told the New York Post. “I was impressed. Besides, this was fiction, which is something for which he clearly has talent.”
“As the project progressed, PhRMA’s requests became increasingly odd,” Mr. Spivak recalled. “They wanted the bad guys to be fundamentalist Muslims.” So the terrorists, who were originally Croatian, were moved to neighbouring Bosnia and morphed into Muslims intent on poisoning Americans to punish their government for not supporting the Muslim cause in the Balkans.
The authors were also asked to simplify the story to make it more appealing to women, who are apparently major purchasers of drugs.
Then in July, the project collapsed. Mr. Spivak said the publisher dealt with the drug association’s marketing group and admits he doesn’t know exactly who authorized the project but says that it was hidden from PhRMA’s bosses — “they have a real problem with financial control.”
At PhRMA, Mr. Johnson insists the book project was “a screwball idea and it was something that we would never, ever support or condone,” admitting that sponsoring such a project would have been “underhanded and sneaky.”
He said the association’s president has since established “institutional controls to make certain it would never happen again.”
As for The Karasik Conspiracy, it’s been rewritten again. The villains now are Catholics, Muslims and Jews, all from the Balkans, and a conspirator has been added, a big pharmaceutical company eager to scare consumers from importing Canadian drugs.
“The new book is a whole lot better. It’s a lot more sophisticated,” Mr. Spivak said.
He sees nothing wrong with the ethics of the original deal. “The entertainment industry is all based on sponsors. I don’t think I was being asked to do anything that was fundamentally dishonest.”
NEW YORK POST
JAYSON BLAIR STILL LIES: AUTHOR
By CINDY ADAMS
JAYSON Blair is the N.Y. Times Liar Emeritus who fabricated his own news stories. He had told me at the time: “I did it because a front-page byline is like a drug high and you need to keep it up. I’m short and black, and if I’m put on a pedestal I become tall and white. I become a Somebody.”
Jayson Blair’s most recent job was as an editor at Phoenix Books. He was editing “The Karasik Conspiracy,” a thriller about terrorism, drug importation, Machiavellian machinations within our own pharmaceutical companies with a plot calling for invading them via Internet. Author Julie Chrystyn tells me:
“I thought I’d give Jayson a break. He’d phone bright and early. He seemed conscientious. I was impressed. Besides, this was fiction, which is something for which he clearly has a talent.
“Then one midnight the guy called. I felt something was off. He said he wanted to review my contract, to ‘save’ me. I said I have lawyers and agents; I’m in good hands, thanks. He persisted, and I dodged. He said, ‘From now on, you have to run everything by me. You have to look out. I’ll protect you.’ He trashed people I was involved with, trashed whoever had been good to him and was giving him a chance. He became an angry young man.
“He was in North Carolina, I was in Arizona, and he wanted me to meet him in Texas. I said I wasn’t ready. He said then he’d fly to me the next day. I said I’m on a 45-day deadline, this is a waste of time; I’d e-mail him and we’d meet later on. By now my head was spinning. He wanted to be my ghostwriter. I thought he was kidding. Then he said, ‘Lie. Tell everyone you met with me.’ ”
Julie has not heard from him since, nor does she want to. The book, due this month, has had to be postponed. Its new pub date is January.
NY DAILY NEWS
Drug business prescribes a novel cure for its ills
Who knew that the multibillion-dollar U.S. pharmaceutical industry was so keen on publishing pulp fiction?
In a tale worthy of a zany Washington satire – except for the lamentable fact that it’s true – the rich and powerful pharmaceutical lobby secretly commissioned a thriller novel whose aim was to scare the living daylights out of folks who might want to buy cheap drugs from Canada.
When the project fell through in July, I’m told the drug lobby offered $100,000 to the co-authors and publisher in a vain effort to sweep it under the rug.
Talk about thinking outside the box!
“This is the most outrageous example of deception and duplicity on the part of a Washington lobby in the history of the country,” said Capitol Hill denizen Jeff Weaver, chief of staff to Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a diehard foe of the pharmaceutical industry.
Drug-lobby mouthpiece Ken Johnson, executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, acknowledged the hare-brained scheme but shifted blame.
“We did not commission a book,” Johnson argued. “The idea was brought to us by an outside consultant. We explored it, provided some background information … but in the final analysis, decided it wasn’t the right thing for us to do.”
I’m told that Mark Barondess, a well-known divorce lawyer in Washington, D.C., was the so-called outside consultant and approached L.A.-based Phoenix Books with the novel idea.
Phoenix honcho Michael Viner, who happens to be Barondess’ publisher, struck a six-figure deal. I’m told PhRMA made at least one payment to Phoenix.
Viner declined comment, and Barondess didn’t respond to my detailed message.
Work began in April, after Viner hired veteran ghostwriter Julie Chrystyn. Her story concerned a Croatian terrorist cell that uses Canadian Web sites to murder millions of unwitting Americans looking for cut-rate pharmaceuticals.
PhRMA has vigorously fought all efforts to legalize the purchase of cheap drugs from Canada. Even though the lobby has found some success, the underground business still takes an estimated $1 billion in annual profits from American drug behemoths.
Chrystyn titled her thriller-in-progress “The Spivak Conspiracy,” an homage to her friend Kenin Spivak, an L.A. telecomm entrepreneur and onetime Hollywood exec.
Spivak said he became Chrystyn’s co-writer after she delivered the first 50 pages, and PhRMA made several editorial suggestions.
“They said they wanted it somewhat dumbed down for women, with a lot more fluff in it, and more about the wife of the head Croatian terrorist, who is a former Miss Mexico,” Spivak told me.
Apparently, women are among the most loyal buyers of Canadian drugs.
“They also wanted to change the motivating factor of the terrorists to greed, because they didn’t want it to be politics,” Spivak said. “They wanted lots of people to die.”
Spivak told me that since PhRMA pulled out – and he and his colleagues rejected the lobby’s offer of $100,000 to kill the project – he and Chrystyn have finished a revised version, “The Karasik Conspiracy,” due early next year.
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