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The influence of Big Media

Following the storm of protest that erupted after the recent Cochrane review’s publication, it didn’t take long for evidence to emerge that certain newspaper editors had put their journalists under pressure to back it .

The British journalist and writer Rachel Johnson, for example, had written an article entitled ‘Not so vital vitamins’ for the Sunday Times in which she cited the review, stated that vitamins are a waste of money and claimed that taking them may shorten life expectancy.

Subsequently however, upon being presented with an article – citing research published in the International Journal of Cancer – showing that a researcher who claimed vitamins can speed up the development of cancer has essentially admitted she got it wrong, Johnson confessed that she “knew there was something fishy” about the Cochrane review but that she “was under pressure to back it” even though she “thought it was simply impossible to pin any of the outcomes on taking vitamins.”

But why might Johnson have been put under pressure? Could it have anything to do with the fact that recent advertisers in the Sunday Times’ magazines have included companies such as Garnier, a division of L'Oréal – the latter of which is the world's largest cosmetics firm and currently holds an 8.7 percent stake in one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi-Aventis; Boots, the UK’s dominant pharmaceutical retailer and wholesaler; and BUPA, the UK's leading provider of private health care insurance?
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