Issues management - if you worked for J. Edgar Hoover

Looks like PhRMA, the Washington lobby group for big pharma companies, was caught taking a look into possible black bag communications tactics - or at least dawdling in the conspiracy section of the local bookstore. An L.A. agent and his writer claim to have been promised a substantial amount of money by PhRMA to complete a pulp fiction novel that would, in effect, help frighten consumers from buying prescription drugs from Canadian internet pharmacies. The story line of this dubious proposition? "... a Croatian terrorist cell that uses Canadian Web sites to murder millions of unwitting Americans looking for cut-rate pharmaceuticals. ..."

    ""We did not commission a book," [PhRMA EVP Ken] 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."

But not before making at least one payment and offering some editorial direction, says Kenin Spivak, one of the authors.

    "... [PhRMA allegedly] 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 the NY Post's Lloyd Grove.

Considering Johnson's past as a journalist, this idea sounds startlingly ill-considered. PhRMA's predicament (or at least their cover story) becomes evident after additional reporting by the Washington Post today. Johnson told the Post that Spivak's representatives

    " brought the book idea to "a yo-yo" at the trade association. No book was commissioned by the association's leaders, he said, and when they found out about it, they stopped it. ... the industry did not have to rely on "pulp fiction and loony tunes" to make its case to Congress and the public. "This absolutely was not a project that was approved or pursued by the leaders of PhRMA. . . . This was a screwball idea," he said.

    ... PhRMA head Billy Tauzin "read the riot act" to staffers involved in the project and instituted controls to prevent such a thing from happening again."(Post)

Thanks to Capsules for the original pointer.