Dynamic Chiropractic – September 24, 2007, Vol. 25, Issue 20

The Brainwashing Is Working

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

Brainwashing is the subtle art of getting someone to believe something that really isn't true and/or change their opinion to what you want them to believe. To accomplish this, all you need to do is exert a certain amount of influence over the subject for an extended period of time.

In this case, the subjects are the American people. The influence is bought to the tune of $30 billion a year and growing. Who's doing the brainwashing? You probably already guessed it: the drug industry.

According to a study published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine,1 the total amount spent on pharmaceutical promotion was $29.9 billion in 2005, up from only $11.4 billion in 1996. In excess of $25 billion of that was spent to influence medical doctors, hospitals, etc., and more than $4 billion was spent on direct-to-consumer advertising. This is a 330 percent increase over the same period.

Thirty billion dollars - just think about it. That's more than the annual budget expenditures by all but 10 states in the U.S. The drug companies could buy entire countries! But instead, they spend it to influence the American people.

If you wanted to spread your influence around, what could you buy? With that kind of money, you could easily buy such things as:

  • magazine publishers
  • legislators
  • hospital administrators
  • television stations
  • medical researchers
  • federal regulators
  • radio programs
  • high-powered attorneys
  • celebrity spokespeople

The list is almost endless. In fact, with that much money spent every year, you could influence, if not control, the thoughts and actions of the American consumer.

Don't think so? A recent study published in the August issue of Pediatrics provides the proof. In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released a clinical practice guideline on the management of acute otitis media.2 The guideline included the "endorsement" of a wait-and-see option, rather than the immediate use of antibiotics.

The year the guideline was released, 88 percent of medical physicians believed this recommendation was reasonable. That number slipped a little to 83.3 percent by 2006. But when asked if they were using the wait-and-see option, only 15 percent of medical physicians answered in the affirmative. When asked why they didn't use the nondrug option, 83.5 percent stated that it was because the parents of the children preferred the antibiotic route. If you're a drug company, that's mission accomplished.

But wait, there's more. Another recent study demonstrated that the risk of a 7-year-old child suffering from asthma is significantly increased if they are given antibiotics in their first year.3 This turns a base hit into a home run. With one simple prescription, the drug companies have turned selling one or more courses of antibiotics to a small child with an earache into asthma medication for life!

How did they do it? They spent $25 billion a year to encourage the doctor to give the parents the choice of (if not outright recommend) drugs, and spent another $4 billion every year to convince the parents drugs were the right choice. The drug companies' only failing, in their eyes, is that they only brainwashed 83.5 percent of the medical doctors. (Looks as if they need to really target that remaining 16.5 percent and help them understand the advantages of recommending drugs over a wait-and-see approach.)

Doctors of chiropractic are the last remaining health profession whose philosophy doesn't begin with drugs. We have an obligation to tell that story, and our patients need to hear it first. That's one of the reasons they come to you. We also need to tell the rest of the world, even if we have to do it one new patient at a time. The consequences of not speaking out about the dangers of drugs are too severe.


  1. Donohue JM, Cevasco M, Rosenthal MB. A decade of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. NEJM, Aug. 16, 2007;357(7):673-81.
  2. Vernacchio L, Vezina RM, Mitchell AA. Management of acute otitis media by primary care physicians: trends since the release of the 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics/American Academy of Family Physicians clinical practice guideline. Pediatrics, 2007;120:281-87.
  3. Kozyrskyj AL, Ernst P, Becker AB. Increased risk of childhood asthma from antibiotic use in early life. Chest, 2007;131(6):1753-1759.


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