Posted on

How to Better Understand Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

How to Better Understand Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

How to better understand big pharma’s agenda setting  is a follow up to an earlier post on  how to understand agenda setting and food shortage.

As I said in an earlier post, people  with chronic pain find reading fiction a pleasant  distraction. It can have the same calming effect of mediation.

This is an artistic inspired cover of Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell tolls"
A scenic book cover of Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”

 Going To Pleasant Places

I pointed out that, wе’ve аll heard the phrase “lose yourself іn а book.” In the case оf reading fiction, іt іѕ actually true. Whеn уоu curl uр with а good book, уоu аrе releasing your mind from the problems уоu’ve experienced during the day. Reading а newspaper article, fоr example, does nоt give уоu the same experience bесаuѕе іt іѕ true and саn in fact cause more worry and stress іn the brain, especially іf that article contains something that pertains tо уоu directly.

This is an oil painting by Ford Madox Brown that shows a scene from Victorian London
Work–An oil painting by Ford Madox Brown

Here’s an interesting follow up.  I have ran into pain sufferer’s who like to have their  minds distracted by topics that take a different slant from the norm. Yes, they love curling up to a good novel but they also enjoy the challenge  of looking at things anew or seeing them from a different perspective.

It’s not that different from pain sufferer’s who like to distract themselves by doing complicated math problems  in their  head. Yeah, most people, including myself, would think doing math when you are already in pain is just asking for more stress. However, the complicated sequences of advanced math can act to  serve as an interesting diversion for some pain sufferers.

A Passion For Provoking Topics

So what happens if the thing that distracts you from your pain is not the joy of math, but intriguing slants on thought  provoking  topics. Well,  the reading center is your place. Here we will explore interesting topics, not always heavy, that will always give you something other than your pain to think about.

Let’s jump in

In the second part of the agenda setting series, I take a look at the pharmaceutical industry.

In their paper, “Pharmaceutical Industry Agenda setting in Mental Health Policies”, Richard Gosden and Sharon Beder examine how the pharmaceutical companies, through front groups, use agenda setting  to expand sales of their products.

Using Front Groups  to Promote Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

They explain the concept of front groups this way:

Thus, if Burger King were to report that a whopper is nutritious, informed consumers would probably shrug in disbelief….

But if the American Council on Science and Health and its panel of 200 “expert” scientists reported that whoppers were not so bad, consumers might actually listen…[1]

According to Gosden and Beder, “ these front groups lobby governments to legislate in corporate  interest, to oppose undesirable regulations and to introduce policies that enhance corporate profitability. Front groups also campaign to change public opinion so that the markets for corporate goods, for example of psychiatric drugs, are not threatened and are even enhanced.[2]

Gosden and Beder’s notion of the pharmaceutical industry using front groups to set an agenda is supported by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Referring to the issue of advertising in 2000 election, she said the following:


Time Magazine Cover Showing The Intense 2000 Presidential Contest Between George Bush Jr. and Al Gore
Time Magazine Cover Show The Closing Days of The 2000 Election Between George Bush Jr. and Al Gore

The Citizens for Better Medicare, which is a group organized by the pharmaceutical industry, is now approaching in the amount of advertising that it has tha amount spent by the Democratic National Committee. It raises the possibility that we have a third party, Republicans, Democrats, and Citizens for Better Medicare [3]

Violence Seems EveryWhere and That Serves Big Pharma’s Agenda Setting

An example of how the pharmaceutical industry has successfully used agenda setting through a front group can be seen with the issue of schizophrenia. A front group, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC0 associates untreated schizophrenia with news stories about violent behavior.

For instance the group has said,” violent episodes by individuals with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have risen dramatically now accounting for an estimated 1,000 homicides annually in the  United States [4] This type of pronouncement helps make the case for the pharmaceutical companies.

This is a surreal picture showing the dark side of schizophrenia
A Surreal depiction of a woman suffering from schizophrenia

A Wall Street Journal article, in 20001, describes the market for schizophrenia drugs as a “ fast growing, $5 billion-a-year market in which Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa has already gained a $2.35 billion  share. [5].

When the news media report stories that link schizophrenia with violent behavior, they do the following:

  • They  fulfill the surveillance function by informing us about the dangerousness of untreated schizophrenia.
  • They also fuel the beliefs that contribute to the stigmatization of mental illness, and make us afraid of having a mental hospital in our neighborhood.
  • On the  other hand, one may lobby hard for government sponsored treatment centers to utilize the newest drugs. Thus, the pharmaceutical companies will increase their profits.

When the news media is back up by front groups it can succeed in setting an agenda that benefits industries that under normal circumstances  would be held in low regard.


I began this series examining the question of whether a world food shortage ever existed or if it was a myth created by the news media to increase profitability. In the process of trying to answer the question I have come to the conclusion, as said earlier, that a person’s personal experience determines how well agenda setting works.

Agenda Setting and Mental Illness

For example, lets take the issue of the media associating mental illness with violent behavior. My mother, a former nurse, has worked at a psychiatric ward, and over the years we have had discussions about the causes of mental illness. I have become aware that not everyone in a mental hospital is violent.

An Abstract Drawing Showing a Woman Suffering From Mental Illness
An Abstract Drawing of a Woman Suffering From Mental Illness

Sometimes, for example, people are committed because of long term depression. Violence is not always  a factor.

Also, drug therapy is not always the preferred choice for treating mental illness because not everyone disorder is biologically based.

In short, I know that there are circumstances under which a non-violent person can be committed to a mental hospital. Thus, I am likely to be skeptical about appeals that make an absolute link between violent behavior and mental illness.

On the other hand, I do not have first hand knowledge on what causes famine. Thus, if I were bombarded with news stories  that said there is a world food shortage and it is caused by floods, I would have no reason to doubt them. It is only by doing independent research that I have become skeptical about early conclusions by news media that famine in the Third World was caused by food shortage and floods.

If You Like This Website Click Here To Create Your Own Website For Free


I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



  2. Ibid
  4. See Note 1
  5. Wall Street Journal “Pfizer, Eli Lilly Battle for Share of Growing Schizophrenia Market.” May 8, 2001
Posted on

How to Understand Agenda Setting and Food Shortage

How to Understand Agenda Setting and Food Shortage

How to understand agenda setting and food shortage may seem like an odd topic for someone who writes  about pain management.  Here is the thing. It’s  2018, and this year one of the main focus for this website will be exploring more news stories as they affect pain sufferers.  I am doing this because many of my readers have expressed an interest in  keeping up with the news and want to be in the know. They don’t want their  pain to keep them from connecting with the issues that everyone is talking about.

This is a Photo of a Hand Holding The Globe
Photo of a Hand Holding The Globe

In short, most pain sufferers are curious and have opinions  about what’s going on in the world just like you. This post is an outlet for that curiosity.

A big issue that came up in 2017 and seemed to make a splash again in 2018 is news media and agenda setting. Without a firm grasp of how agenda setting works, one can fall prey to those who think all news is “fake” and to those who believe all news is beyond question.

The truth  of the matter is that a persons personal experience determine how well the agenda setting works. In this  2 part series of posts, I’ll take a look at agenda setting and food shortage. I will also examine the issue of agenda setting and the pharmaceutical industry. When I’m done you’ll have a solid understanding of how opposite  sides of an issue use agenda setting.

Let’s jump in

Is there a food shortage in the world, and do droughts or floods cause it? According to newspaper and television  accounts, famine appears to afflict most of the third world because of a food shortage caused by droughts or floods.

This is a Photo of Africans Moving Through a Flood
Floods Worsen Food Shortage

For example, look at the following excerpt from Newsday:

More than 10 million people are affected by droughts in the horn of Africa and aid agencies said that number could rise to 14 million unless help arrives .[1]

So without making any kinds of judgement, let’s examine whether agenda setting by the media has caused the public to believe that the world is in a constant food crisis.

What is Agenda Setting?

The agenda-setting function of the media refers to the media’s capability, through repeated news coverage, of raising the importance of an issue in the public’s mind. [2]

For instance, the media’s coverage of the O.J. Simpson case through front-page articles, breaking news on cable, and special news programing was successful at telling us what to think about.


This Photo Shows O.J. Simpson in A Suit and A Split Screen of The White Bronco in the Background
Split Screen of The White Bronco and O.J. Simpson

Now We Can Tackle The Issue of World Food Shortage

Two cases give different conclusions about the world food shortage. In one case, Bangladesh, the agenda -setting function of the news media is evident. The news media wants us to think about the following:

  • Starvation is a result of food shortage, and action is needed immediately.
  • Harvest-destroying floods cause the food shortage.
This is The Front Page Picture of the NYT Featuring A Child Dying From Hunger
A Child Dying From Hunger

On the other hand, the power of agenda setting is in question when it comes to the case of Somalia. The presentation of starving Somalian children in television news moved the United States to intervene for humanitarian reason. However, a closer look makes it clear that for a long time the story was not what most Americans were thinking about.

In short, by studying both cases we can put the world food shortage in perspective.

Agenda Setting and Bangladesh

In 1974, the news media, led by the New York Times,  covered the famine in Bangladesh.The following is an excerpt from an article by Kasturi Rangan.

“Researchers, however, found out later that despite the floods Bangladesh did not run out of food. In fact, rich farmers were hoarding rice. One peasant asked whether there was enough food in the village, replied ‘ there may not have been a lot of food, but if it had been shared no one would have died’.[3]

Starving Children Waiting For Food Reach Out Their Hands
This Photo shows Starving Children Waiting For Food

Also, researcher Nick Ebersadt, in his article “Myths of the food crisis”, makes this observation about Bangladesh:

The cameramen who photograph those living corpses for your evening consumption work hard to evoke a nation of unrecognizable monsters starving by the roadside. Unless you have been there, you would find it hard to imagine that the people of Bangladesh are friendly and energetic, and perhaps 95 percent of them eat enough to get by. [4]

Finally, Oxford University’s researcher Amartya Sen, widely  recognized for his studies on famines, found that famines occur not because  of food shortage but because people’s claim to food is disrupted. For example, people’s income may fall dramatically  because they lose their means to produce.[5]

The West, including the Untied States, sent millions of dollars to aid Bangladesh. Thus, agenda setting by the news media worked.

Now lets look at the case of Somalia.

Somalia and The Limits of Agenda Setting

In the beginning  of 1992, Jonathan Mermin, a lecture at Yale University, reported that “civil war and starvation gripped Somalia in the wake of the overthrow of Mohammed Said Barre, who had ruled the country for two decades.”[6]

He goes on to state, “without any apparent cues from Washington, CNN sent a reporter to Somalia and aired eight stories on the crisis there from May 1st  to May 15th.

According to Mermin, “in the first half of May, CNN presented the crisis in Somalia in the extraordinarily dire terms and explicitly criticized the West for declining to act.”[7]

A Screen Of CNN Breaking News of The Famine In Somalia
CNN Breaking News of Famine in Somalia

Furthermore, he states that “calls for intervention did not sound in Washington. Nor could that be heard around the United States. If letters to the editor are any indication, a LEXIS/NEXIS search of letters to none American newspapers turned up one letter on Somalia in May, one in June, and one in July.” [8]

This Photo Shows a Mass of Starving Children in Somalia
Children and The Famine in Somalia

Only after the Bush administration, out of political necessity, (Bush did not want Clinton to make Somalia an issue in the 92 campaign) put Somalia as its top agenda did most Americans begin to believe that the famine had to be addressed. The Somalia case illustrates that the agenda -setting function of the news media may be less effective, or not work at all, when it relates to foreign  policy not agreed to by the government. It may be that in certain cases, where the issue does not directly effect them, the American people take their cues from the government and not the media.

If You Like This Website Click Here To Create Your Own Website For Free


What happens when people take their  cues from front groups organized by controversial industries?


This brings me to a recent trend in which the pharmaceutical industry uses agenda setting to promote its interest. This is the subject of my next post.

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



  1. “Famine ravages Ethiopia: Fears of topping 1m deaths in ’84”, Newsday, Nov. 12, 2002)
  2. Severin, W. J. & Tankard JR. JW. (2001) Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Users in The Mass Media. Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  3. Lappe, F.M. & Collins, J (1986) World Hunger: Twelve Myths, Grove Press, Inc.
  4. Eberstadt, Nick. “Myths of the food crisis”—Moral Problems (1079) Harper & Row, Inc.
  5. See Note 3
  6. Ebsco Host Research Database—Jonathan Mermin, “Television and American Intervention in Somalia: The myth of media—driven foreign policy”.
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
Posted on

What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your Husband

What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your Husband

Almost every man is driven by one great fear—feeling helpless to protect those he loves.  It’s a primal fear and if you’re a guy you don’t need a fancy degree in psychology to understand it. The worried father laughs it off when his daughter calls him a nag. It’s a lot better for him to have her think he is being overprotective than to acknowledge the fact that something bad could happen to that precious young woman, whom he once held on his lap,  and there wouldn’t be a damn thing he could do about it. I addressed a similar concern in a post I wrote several years ago called “Why Rape is not Just a women’s issue”.  Addressing this fear in your own style, humor, wit, naughty, sweet, is a great way to understand what to write on Valentine’s Day card to your husband.

Continue reading What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your Husband

Posted on

What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your wife

What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your Wife

I walked into the break room at work and I spotted the bold red heart drawing on the associates’ news board. The drawing read : “Valentine’s Day is on Tuesday. Let’s all wear pink or red.”

In all honesty, Valentine’s Day has mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, I see it as an opportunity  to celebrate and affirm the  love we have for the special someone in our life. It can also be a reminder of personal loss. Elegant roses, sweet kisses- candy and real- are part of my Valentines Day memory. However, so is my memory  of a dark-haired, exquisite  guitar playing beauty, who died in a car crash a few days before  Valentine’s Day.

In fact, my need to get past personal tragedy and move forward  inspired me to write the first two books of my Derek Tawarrior South Africa detective trilogy .  On the surface  the trilogy is about a haunted warrior detective’s pursuit of a master criminal. However, it’s also about a man’s journey as he deals  with the death of the woman he loves and finally opens his heart to another. Opening your heart, this is the key to understanding what those we love mean to us. Once you do that, you ‘ll easily understand what to write on valentine’s card to your wife.

Continue reading What to Write on Valentine’s Day Card to Your wife

Posted on

Saving Your Dog From The Smell Of A Skunk–4 Steps That Will Work

Saving Your Dog From The Smell Of A Skunk–4 Steps That Will Work

Imagine this. Your dog comes home in the panicked frenzy of an overtaken race driver that’s near the finishing line. What’s going on you wonder? You soon get your answer. As he zooms past, you get a whiff of it… the nasty, horrible, nose burning smell, and you instantly know іt’s a skunk.  Though You have never experienced it before, you know it has to be it, just from from other recounts of the smell from friends. They have told you how their dog got sprayed because it loves playing with other animals. Unfortunately,  your dog may also have not have learned that it’s better not to play with a skunk in the same way it plays with other animals. Well, until now. What should you do if your beloved dog, the one that has been such a comfort to you, has just overstepped the boundaries of a personal space with a touchy skunk? You’re in luck because the topic of this post is how to get rid of skunk smell on dogs.

Continue reading Saving Your Dog From The Smell Of A Skunk–4 Steps That Will Work

Posted on

Reading As Meditation–Making The Connection

Reading As  Meditation–Making The Connection



What  if I were to tell you that you can have a fun and free meditation session, and all you had to do was read a good novel. No, I promise that I’m not working on the behalf of the publishing industry with a new fanciful marketing strategy.

Continue reading Reading As Meditation–Making The Connection

Posted on

How To Get Your Dog To Sleep–Tips And Tricks

How To Get Your Dog To Sleep–Tips And Tricks

Tips on helping your dog sleep well
Helping Your Dog to Sleep Well

That wonderful dog of yours helped ease your pain. See However, it’s frustrating for you to see your four-legged friend spending one sleepless night after the other. Sleep deprivation can have serious impact on your dog. So, it’s a great idea that you know how to get your dog to sleep through the night for his or her peace and yours. If you’re like me, you’re getting really tired of all those talking animal movies. That said, if your dog could talk to you these are some of the ways it may appreciate your help. Continue reading How To Get Your Dog To Sleep–Tips And Tricks

Posted on

Magnetic Bracelets for Back Pain–Exploring The Therapy

Magnetic Bracelets for Back Pain–Exploring The Therapy

People seeking  alternative treatment to their chronic pain may consider using magnetic bracelets for back pain. With that in mind, I’m providing a through look at the

Essentially, this kind оf therapy іѕ used іnѕtеаd оf conventional medication ѕuсh аѕ pain killers.  Here is the easy part. You wear а magnetic bracelet оr ring, оr even small miniature brackets оf magnets оn а small piece оf string fоr stipulated time periods. Continue reading Magnetic Bracelets for Back Pain–Exploring The Therapy

Posted on

Foods That Help Reduce Stress–Become a Happier You

Foods That Help Reduce Stress–Become a Happier You


Whаt аrе the effective ways tо relieve stress and anxiety? If you have followed some of my previous posts,  you are aware that many people аrе resorting tо stress management through alternative healing therapies ѕuсh аѕ music therapy and massage therapy.   That said,  you may nоt be aware оf  something that you can do to fight stress in an even simpler way—Eat!  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should stuff yourself with pizza  whenever you feel bad or enter the next hot dog eating contest.  What I’m saying is that consumption оf certain foods enables our body to  fight stress іn а better way. So, my mission in this post is to help you understand the foods that help you reduce stress. Let’s go!

Foods That Relieve Stress

Continue reading Foods That Help Reduce Stress–Become a Happier You

Posted on

Improving Low Self-Esteem–Freedom to a Stronger You

Improving Low Self-Esteem–Freedom to a Stronger You

INTRODUCTION: In the course of our life, we might have encountered a situation whereby we think of other people as been better than us. At times you may look at some successful people, and see them as perfect, being lucky and more gifted and hope you could trade places with them. On the other hand, these people also look at you and think of you as someone who is free, without many problems. You feel insecure of people and they likewise feel the same thing of you. At that moment, what you are experiencing is lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem.


tips on showing confidence
Showing confidence

Self Esteem can be described as a mental state that depends on a person’s personal assessment of his or her worth. The concept deals with an individuals’ perception on whether or not they are worthy of praise or merit. In short, your self-esteem describes the measure with which you like yourself.

Low self esteem is a phrase we usually used to describe individuals who fails to think highly of themselves. People with low self-esteem possess a low assessment of their own self-worth. They never feel good regarding who they are and what they are. This has the possibility to create any number of problems for the person that is experiencing the condition. In a simple way, low self-esteem can as well be described as “feeling down about yourself.”


  • Depending too heavily on others for directions and decisions
  • Hiding from problems using alcohol, drugs and procrastination
  • Unnecessary shyness, low assertiveness’ skills
  • Unnecessary self-consciousness, self doubt, inferiority complex
  • Regular unconstructive self-talk.
  • Hiding from risks and challenges in life, fear of disappointment
  • Regularly feeling besieged by regular stresses of life
  • Feeling physically inferior to others through fitness, appearance, strength and height etc
  • Overcompensation, acting like you are better than others
  • Lack of inspiration to act as a result of low faith in one’s ability to confront problems

Continue reading Improving Low Self-Esteem–Freedom to a Stronger You