Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Taste of Their Own Medicine

Slate's Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer explain how a pharmaceutical company that wanted to get its message of the evils of Canadian drugs out to the public through a third party didn't count on the author taking dramatic license:
The original plot of The Spivak Conspiracy, the book's working title for a time, revolved around an attack on the United States by villainous Croatian Muslims, whose weapon of choice is tainted drugs sold to Americans through Canadian pharmacies. It's against the law to reimport American drugs. But some drugs cost as little as one-tenth of their U.S. price when purchased in Canada, and a lot of Americans have been hopping over the border to fill their prescriptions or buying drugs from Canadian pharmacies via the Internet. Last year, they bought nearly $1 billion worth of imports, cutting into the drug companies' profits.

. . . .

[Lawyer and former Hollywood executive turned telecom entrepreneur Kenin] Spivak says that when [pharmaceutical company consultant Mark] Barondess killed the project, he collectively offered the co-writers $100,000 to keep the deal quiet. In exchange, according to a partial copy of the agreement we obtained, he asked the authors to sign an agreement promising not to disparage "Barondess, the pharmaceutical industry, or PhRMA" in any "public, private, or promotional statements or writings." Barondess doesn't dispute that he offered Spivak and [ghostwriter Julie] Chrystyn money and asked for a nondisparagement agreement. But he claims that he was reacting to the writers' threat to bad-mouth the industry unless they were paid.

In the end, Spivak and Chrystyn turned down the money, rewrote the book, and retitled it The Karasik Conspiracy. The thriller is due out next month. We've read part of an early draft, and we can't recommend it as great literature. But the book has an instructive new bad guy: A large pharmaceutical company, so far unnamed, has poisoned Canadian-sold drugsā€”and then tried to make it look like a bunch of terrorists were behind the plot.

Link. This is the kind of intrigue-filled life I plan on leading at some point.

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