PROP is So Desperate That It'll Lie About Half a Tootsie Roll

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The barrage of PROP's BS propaganda continues. If they haven't looked stupid enough in the past month, you ain't seen nothing yet.











Let's start with a definition:

Perhaps this seems a little strong, but I cannot think of a better adjective to describe an item in the July 2022 issue of PharmedOut. This fanatically anti-drug-company organization is run from Georgetown University's Department of Pharmacology & Physiology. By what can only be described as a mind-boggling coincidence, the director and founder of PharmedOut is Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, who recently took her share of heat for making, let's say, some misleading statements in a June 2022 debate with Dr. Jeffrey Singer (Cato Institute, ACSH Scientific Advisory Board) about the cause of today's opioid overdose deaths (See A Surgeon And A Non-Practicing Anti-Opioid Zealot Walk Into A Bar: The Singer Fugh-Berman Debate)

Some background

The debate, such as it was, was sponsored by Reason Magazine and was held at the SoHo Forum in Manhattan (its director and founder is Gene Epstein). The debate involved one question: "Has America's overdose crisis been caused by doctors overtreating patients with opioids?" Dr. Fugh-Berman argued yes, while Dr. Singer argued no. After a rather painful hour, audience members were allowed to ask questions, which I did. My question was about Dr. Fugh-Berman's seemingly deceptive use of statistics to paint a bleaker view of the role of prescription opioids in overdose deaths. Following her response, which didn't even begin to answer my question, she added a blatant falsehood: "And we'll also point out that the American Council on Science and Health is very heavily industry-funded" – a tried and true method to discredit ACSH when all else fails. This prompted me to wonder, "Is [Dr. Fugh-Berman] lying or merely ignorant?"

Fugh-Berman is a member of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP), a shadowy group of anti-opioid zealots; some of its members are making small fortunes by self-proclaiming themselves experts and then using this "expertise" to work with lawyers suing pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in creating the opioid epidemic.

Astoundingly, a now-deleted post on SupportProp claimed that Fugh-Berman won the debate.

Source: Support PROP, but don't bother looking for it.

When in reality, the results were quite different:

This prompted a blunt response from Gene Epstein:

The statement on the PROP site gets the facts reversed. Their statement claims that Fugh-Berman got 45.3% of the vote [in favor of the debate proposition] while Singer got 39.5% [against]. Those numbers are the exact opposite.

Gene Epstein, Director of the SoHo Forum, Private Communication, July 5, 2022

What does this have to do with Tootsie Rolls?

Getting back to shameless, here is a paragraph from the PharmedOut July newsletter I mentioned above. It defies belief.

Desperately trying to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat, PharmedOut once again lied in a way that made Fugh-Berman appear to be the winner when in fact, according to Oxford-style debate rules, it was a tie. (I explained the rules of an Oxford-style debate here.) Here's the pathetic attempt to claim victory:

"The debate ended in a tie, but Dr. Fugh-Berman was awarded the Soho [sic] Forum Tootsie Roll..."

Once again, a lie. If you listen to the podcast, this becomes clear:

Fugh-Berman was not awarded the SoHo Forum Tootsie Roll, as was claimed in the newsletter; she was awarded half of it. Gene Epstein explains [emphasis mine]:

"We have to divide this Tootsie Roll among you two, however, Adriane, because you're going to have to go on the road, we're going to give you the Tootsie Roll. Jeff, we're going to give her the Tootsie Roll." 

Gene Epstein, Director, SoHo Forum

At this point, Dr. Singer happily agreed. Either he dislikes Tootsie Rolls (hard to believe) or didn't feel the need to pad his resume with complete nonsense as Fugh-Berman did. Fugh-Berman wasn't awarded the damn thing; she was given Singer's half of the Tootsie Roll because she had to travel. (Readers: feel free to speculate on how the professor traveled back to Georgetown or where ever she was going. I'll go first: Not by Greyhound Bus.)

I'm not sure which is more appalling – PROP's inept attempts to manipulate simple facts to support their thesis or their belief that no one will catch them. Most importantly, you need to keep in mind that PROP played a vastly oversized role in determining our deeply flawed and counterproductive opioid policies or that they are so desperate to "win" that somehow one-half of a Tootsie Roll became a "talking point" in their non-stop barrage of propaganda. 

In honor of his debate success and chocolate magnanimity I decided to design a free ad for Dr. Singer's practice:

I'm far too polite to suggest an alternative place where the PharmedOut Tootsie Roll might be displayed. Let's just say that the lighting isn't great.