In the pay of Big Pharma
Anyone who has ever been involved in any online discussion of quack alternative medicine will no doubt be familiar with the "pharma shill gambit". It's a favourite debating technique of supporters of various forms of quackery, pseudoscentific alternative medicine, and woo. When a supporter of homeopathy or whatever has the facts pointed out to them, they respond by saying that the other person is obviously being paid to say that by Big Pharma.
But there's something that strikes me as odd about this. It's always just the generic "Big Pharma". It never seems to be a specific company. Isn't that a bit odd?
Now, I should point out that I often have been paid by Big Pharma. They pay me for doing specific things, like analysing data from their clinical trials. They do not pay me for blogging or tweeting about homeopathy or similar. In fact, when I do that, it's usually distracting me from the stuff I get paid for. So you could argue that Big Pharma pay me not to blog about pseudoscientific quackery.
But here's the thing. When I get my money from Big Pharma, the name at the bottom of the cheque never actually says "Big Pharma". It tends to be more specific, like "Pfizer", or "AstraZeneca"·
So, I have a question for all those fearless defenders of pseudoscience who are convinced that people like me who question their crazy beliefs are being paid to do so by Big Pharma. How does it work exactly?
Do all the Big Pharma companies pay into one big pot which is then used to fund all the anti-quackery blogging? Do different pharma companies have their own favourite bloggers, so that one blogger might get all their brown envelopes from GSK, and another blogger from Novartis? Or do different pharma companies fund different blog topics: perhaps Merck pays for all the anti-homeopathy blogs and Sanofi pays for everything about Burzynski?
In all the accusations of "Oh, but you must be in the pay of Big Pharma", these things are never specified. So come on, tell us how it all works in detail. I want to know!
And most importantly, tell me where to send the frickin' invoices!