As if Big Pharma's constant bribery of physicians wasn't distorting health care enough, it seems we have to watch out for the junk food makers too: AOL News reports on a deal between the American Academy of Family Physicians and Coca-Cola to have Coke fund "educational materials" about soft drinks for the academy's web site.
Academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley said Wednesday that the deal won't influence the group's public health messages, and that the company will have no control over editorial content. He said the new online information will include research linking soft drinks with obesity and will focus on sugar-free alternatives.
But critics say the Coke deal will water down the advice.
"Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," Harvard University nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett said in an e-mail.
He said the academy "should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing with Coke, their voice has almost surely been muzzled."
Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, likened the alliance with ads decades ago in which physicians said mild cigarettes were safe.
The Coke deal is not the only corporate alliance for the family physicians group. In 2005, it received funding from McDonald's for a fitness program. And its consumer Web site includes advertising for a variety of products, including deli meats and air freshener.
Henley said the Coke deal is worth six figures, but he and a Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
Coca-Cola is among several corporate contributors to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, a separate philanthropic group. These contributors include many drug companies, McDonald's, PepsiCo and a beef industry group.