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Saturday, 8 October 2011

SCIENTOLOGY cult spent $ millions on PROZAC attack - this from 1991 proves CCHR two decade long failure

Scientologist Campaign Shakes Drug Firm, Advertising Industry

June 30, 1991
By Michael Tackett, Chicago Tribune.

INDIANAPOLIS — When Joseph Wesbecker stormed a printing plant in Louisville nearly two years ago, killing eight people and himself with an AK-47 rifle, he unwittingly fired the first shots in another kind of assault.

A coroner`s examination revealed that Wesbecker had been taking a prescription anti-depressant drug called Prozac.

The disclosure didn`t generate much public concern. Wesbecker`s doctor had asked him to enter a hospital and to stop taking Prozac, speculating that it might have aggravated his unstable condition.

But there was little reason to think that Prozac, made by Eli Lilly & Co. was harmful. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and numerous medical experts said it was safe.

For the Church of Scientology, however, the shootings rang out a different message. Long an ardent opponent of psychiatric drugs, the church was particularly opposed to Prozac, a runaway sales success and the first innovation in psychiatric drugs in many years.

Wesbecker`s attack was the foundation for a blistering assault launched by the church on Lilly, and those who had anything good to say about the drug. Initially the church provided information to people seeking to sue Lilly over the drug`s effects. Church leaders also hit the talk show circuit and fee-based public relations wire services with full force. Its 20-month campaign escalated to unprecedented levels soon after Time magazine ran a highly critical cover story about the church in early May. The church`s theory, denied by Lilly and Time, was that Lilly planted the story.

The church purchased full-page advertisements in USA Today for two weeks, one week to attack Lilly, the other to attack Time. They were followed by a series of ads last week to promote Scientology. Each series was followed by a glossy booklet insert, one decrying Time and Lilly, the other lauding church founder L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

The overall campaign, which cost over $2 million, seems to have been brutally effective. Lilly`s Prozac sales have dropped in the U.S. and so has its market share.

Lilly executives, who at first ignored the Scientology campaign, now express shock at its ferocity and effectiveness. ``Take the nastiest negative campaign in politics you have ever seen and cube it,`` said Mitchell Daniels, Lilly`s vice president for corporate affairs and former political director in the Reagan White House.

``A strong case can be made that we should have confronted this from the beginning,`` Daniels said. But ``the real question is, why did they go nuclear?``

Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology, responded: ``They have a multibillion-dollar killer drug on the market, and they want to keep it no matter how many people die on it.`` Jentzsch said the church believed it

``couldn`t trust the media to get it right`` about its opposition to Lilly and Prozac, so it used ``advocacy advertising`` to make its point.

Lilly, a multibillion corporation that has been in the pharmaceutical business for more than a century, invested nearly $250 million in its quest to make Prozac a safe effective drug approved by federal regulators. Prozac, introduced in early 1988, produced sales of more than $770 million in 1990.

Before the Scientology campaign, analysts said sales might reach $1 billion this year.

For its part, the church opposes the drug because of the longstanding contempt for psychiatry infused into the creed of Scientology by Hubbard, who died in 1986. The late science fiction writer and philosopher`s best-known work, which describes Scientology`s philosophy, is the book ``Dianetics.``

Scientologists consider psychiatric drugs destructive and part of their doctrine is to show no mercy toward an enemy.

But the fight also exposes a dark side of the information era. Well-financed groups like the Scientologists can buy advertising and televised air time to send information instantly and uncritically around the world. And the mere existence and power of such a campaign can overshadow the accuracy of its charges.

Lilly`s approach had been to communicate with its customers-mainly physicians-about Prozac`s safety, but Scientology`s campaign was directed at patients.

``They have a deep bank account,`` Daniels said. ``Other groups have known how to market a message. The difference here is that the Scientologists have bottomless pockets and absolutely no regard for facts or the scientific method.``

Craig Baskin, a stock market analyst for Duff & Phelps/MCM Investment Research Co., added, ``It has cost them (Lilly) sales, cost them earnings and cost them cash.``

Controversy is not new to the Scientologists. The church has battled the media, psychiatry and the Internal Revenue Service, among others, for nearly 40 years.

In the 1980s, the organization lost its tax-exempt status after a long fight with the Internal Revenue Service. The courts ruled that Scientology was more a business than a religious enterprise. In 1979 nine church members were convicted of breaking into a number of federal government offices, among other charges.

The group has attracted many critics. ``They are a destructive cult,``

said Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network. ``It is not mutually exclusive to be a destructive cult and a religion. Just about any group can concoct a philosophy that can be a religion.``

At the same time, Scientologists also have drawn many believers. Jentzsch said the church has 8 million members worldwide. The group sponsors drug treatment centers and the Goodwill Games. One of Hubbard`s devotees even managed to get Gov. Jim Edgar on March 13 to proclaim L. Ron Hubbard Day in Illinois.

But when Edgar`s staff became aware of the controversy surrounding Scientology, the governor rescinded the proclamation on March 26.

Scientologists believe that humans possess thetans, an intergalactic, time-traveling, soul-like entity essential for wellness and happiness. People also have engrams-bad experiences-that must be purged so the thetans can flourish, they believe.

Scientologists use a device called an E-meter to determine the level of engrams in a person and offer potentially costly treatments to rid people of engrams.

The church`s campaign against Lilly is a study in a form of negative advertising rarely seen in American media. And like a lot of negative ads in political campaigns, many of the claims in the ads do not stand up under scrutiny, according to the sources on which the ads were based.

Some examples:

- In one of its ads in USA Today, the church said the coroner`s jury ruled that Prozac may have been a contributing factor to Wesbecker`s behavior. It also said Lilly had failed to provide Jefferson County Coroner Richard Greathouse with information linking Prozac to violence.

But Greathouse says those statements represent half-truths. ``The coroner`s jury verdict was that the presence of Prozac was undeniable in Mr. Wesbecker`s system,`` Greathouse said. ``They could find no causal

relationship (between Prozac and Wesbecker`s actions).

``The Church of Scientology is carrying a torch, and they are trying to burn all the psychiatrists with it,`` he said.

``Eli Lilly provided me with whatever I asked for.``

- Last July the widows of three of Wesbecker`s victims filed a civil suit seeking $50 million from Lilly. Linda Ganote, one of the plaintiffs, said that shortly after she went to see a lawyer, church members came to see her.

``They were telling us cases where Prozac caused problems,`` Ganote said. ``They told us case histories. A lot of what they say made sense. It`s the stuff they`ve researched.``

Lilly charges that the church is behind many of the estimated 60 civil suits on file around the country. It also charges that the church helped to create the so-called Prozac defense, in which people accused of crimes contend Prozac made them do it. The defense has been used about a dozen times around the country, but no one who used it has been acquitted. None of the civil suits has gone to trial.

- The church in another ad said a record number of reports of adverse reactions to Prozac were filed with the Food and Drug Administration. The ads do not say that nearly 95 percent of those more than 14,700 reports were filed by Lilly itself, which-like other pharmaceutical firms-has a policy of reporting any negative reaction to a product.

About 80 percent of the reports were for minor side effects such as skin rash. And the FDA said the number of reports did not seem unusual.

- The ad campaign makes extensive use of a study conducted by Harvard medical researchers led by Dr. Martin Teicher that concluded Prozac seemed to cause increased violent behavior and a tendency to suicide. What the campaign does not say, Teicher says, is that his study was conducted on patients he termed ``Battle 1`` to characterize the grave extent of their mental illness. ``We found in a complicated, atypical group of depressed outpatients an emergence of violent preoccupation with suicide they hadn`t otherwise experienced,`` Teicher said. Teicher continues to prescribe Prozac in his practice.

``I think what the Scientologists are doing is presenting the case in a one-sided, inflammatory way,`` Teicher said. ``It`s important to say how many people Prozac has rescued from depression.``

Other independent doctors have disputed Teicher`s findings. Lilly also paid for 32,000 patients to undergo clinical trials and called Prozac

``perhaps the most thoroughly tested central nervous drug ever.``

``It`s a valuable medicine,`` Teicher said. ``It`s not a miracle drug.``

A spokesman for the Scientologists denied the group had distorted information for the ads. Jentzsch said: ``I think they are wrong.``

Since being introduced into the American market in early 1988, Prozac-Newsweek called it a ``miracle drug`` in a cover story-has been the engine driving Lilly`s record profitability.

Now, some analysts believe, it will never regain its overwhelming popularity.

``Prozac will never again regain the sales growth it had before the Scientologists hit,`` Baskin said.

Lilly has had problems with other drugs. The company pleaded guilty to 25 misdemeanor charges for failing to report to the FDA deaths and illnesses of patients who took its anti-arthritis drug Oraflex. It also sold, along with other companies, DES, a drug criticized as triggering cancer in women taking it to prevent miscarriage.

In leveling its charges against Prozac and trying to shape American perception, Scientologists have taken the medium of advertising to a level that some find disturbing.

``It`s a new genre, but it is being used increasingly,`` said Rance Crain, editor-in-chief of Advertising Age. ``Advertising is being used in ways it was never intended to be used. There is a real danger here that it is going to weaken the efficacy and believability of all advertising. It concerns a lot of people.``

Steve Anderson, media relations manager for USA Today, said publication of the ads is a 1st Amendment issue.

``Anyone, be they Scientologists, Chrysler or whomever, has the right to purchase advertising space to express their opinion,`` he said.

Lilly`s Daniels pointed out that FDA heavily regulates what the drug company can say about its product while the Scientologists can invoke protections of the 1st Amendment.

As part of its effort to staunch damage from the Scientology campaign, Lilly announced recently that it would indemnify doctors who prescribe Prozac against lawsuits. It also has broken with its tradition and granted interviews on the controversy.

In the end, as far as many doctors are concerned, it is not a story about a company, a church or even a drug. It is a story about vulnerable, depressed people.

Lilly estimates that 4 million people worldwide are using Prozac today. Vicki Cousins, of St. Louis, is one of them. She has suffered from severe depression and considered suicide more than once. She believes Prozac has kept her life in balance.

``I am feeling 100 percent better,`` she said.

Dr. John Csernansky, a psychiatrist and professor at Washington University in St. Louis, has prescribed Prozac for several patients.

Because of the ads, he said, some of his patients now are afraid to take the drug.

``They interpret these newspaper reports as saying these are ordinary people taking Prozac who become raving maniacs and these are a complete misrepresentation,`` Csernansky said.

``Suicide is a common, tragic complication of depression. Effective anti-depressants reduce that number (of suicides), they don`t increase them.``

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