Kevin Trudeau, Big Pharma and their weird cycle of co-dependency

Is it wrong to take pleasure from learning that Kevin Trudeau has finally landed in jail?

Those familiar with the man’s exploits may conclude that such feelings may only be, ah, natural.

Mr. Trudeau is the American author responsible for the perennially best-selling medical guide, Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About. The book is described on its dust-jacket as “an amazing journey through the behind-the-scenes world of corporate-sponsored health.” A more accurate account would be “an amazing attempt to convince gullible patients that it’s okay to not take their prescribed meds.”

The author expounds upon many unusual theories, among them: Botanicals cure diabetes. Suncreens are the cause of, rather than a means of preventing, melanoma. AIDS isn’t real.

Any skeptic who might wonder why those notions aren’t given greater credence in the scientific literature has unwittingly provided a straw-man to the canny Mr. Trudeau. The reason why natural cures aren’t better known is because ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About them. Or can’t you read the book title?

‘They,’ of course, are we — the minions of Big Pharma.

Observing that it’s much more lucrative to offer expensive lifetime treatments for chronic conditions, as opposed to providing a cure, Mr. Trudeau contends that drug makers “don’t want us to get well.”

‘They’ also appear to include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which he depicts as a corrupt band of villains that conspires with Big Pharma against the public interest. Continuing this theme, he posits that ‘They’ are enabled by licensed medical practitioners, each a willing dupe who, to quote the author, “[is] taught only how to write out prescriptions.”

It would be convenient to dismiss the purveyor of such unconventional views as a fringe crank shouting jeremiads to an alienated audience. Not so. In the 10 years since Mr. Trudeau’s book first emerged, he has sold 5 million copies, at 30 bucks a throw. He has also written a half-dozen sequels, each offering similar ideas.

Lest it be thought that a background in the lab or clinic be required in order to write a medical bestseller, Mr. Trudeau’s CV stands in stark contrast to the norm. His knowledge was gained in the automobile sales-lots and the neighborhood porches of suburban Boston, where he hustled sedans, and pitched vitamins door-to-door through a multi-level marketing scheme. His later disdain for doctors notwithstanding, he once pretended to be a physician, in concert
with some 1991 check-kiting and credit-card fraud incidents.

These youthful indiscretions resulted in two years behind bars in a federal lockup. For Mr. Trudeau, this provided a welcome opportunity to re-calibrate, to reinvent himself, and to reflect upon the future.

Let’s see, now. Future, future… Infomercials!

Slippery Kevin

The future, he quickly came to see, was pitching products through the airwaves. After all, he may have reasoned, why yap one-on-one about mini-vans to meat-plant workers in the snow, or sweet-talk pensioners and hausfraus on their grubby doorsteps, when you can reach millions of anxious suckers instantly through the miracle of television?

And so, sprung from his cell, during the next two decades he unloaded an estimated 32,000 infomercials, providing hope for the balding, the obese, the forgetful, the pain-ridden, the impotent and the addicted. His remedies were either nostrums, or else vague descriptions of cures that could only be further explained once an additional payment had been received.

On the occasions when Mr. Trudeau was pressed for evidence to back up his claims, he followed the longstanding tradition of itinerant elixir vendors, and simply made stuff up on the spot. He insisted to a prominent TV journalist that his natural remedy for diabetes was validated through a 25-year research study by the University of Calgary. “Eh? What study?” responded the Canadian institution, to the inevitable flood of media inquiries. “You sure you want the University of Calgary?”

Undaunted by the denial, Mr. Trudeau was quick to deploy the bamboozler’s ultimate gambit, the triple lutz of flim-flam. He explained that the university must have knuckled under and shredded their disruptive findings, following the usual intimidation and threats from Big Pharma’s gunsels: “Nice little campus youse got here; too bad what might happen if youse was to publish dat resoich.”

In other words, there “They” go again, doing what they always do; that is, trying to shatter the dreams of the balding, the obese, the forgetful, the pain-ridden, and so on.

When the authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, stepped up their warnings, Mr. Trudeau became emboldened. “They” can’t silence me, he proclaimed, even as he paid millions of dollars to settle litigation brought against him by Washington and state agencies.

Finally, in late spring of this year, the jurisprudence system determined it had enough of Kevin Trudeau. Further to a district attorney’s comment that he is an “unrepentant, untiring, and uncontrollable huckster who has defrauded the unsuspecting for thirty years,” bailiffs accompanied the author to his new accommodations at the federal prison camp in Montgomery, Ala., where he is registered for an eight-year stay. He has filed a judicial appeal of his conviction.

This leads us to the point in this narrative where the minions of Big Pharma (a.k.a, “They,” or we) should exchange high-fives to celebrate the elimination of one particular scourge. However, the fall and rise and fall — and perhaps rise again — of Mr. Trudeau should present the Life Sciences sector with a valuable lesson.

For all his chicanery and gift of hornswaggle, this fellow is undeniably a gifted communicator who was able to speak compellingly and inspire overlooked segments of the public to form opinions on important health issues.

And, without question, a large part of the reason why Mr. Trudeau, and others, time and again are able to mislead and deceive tens of millions of people is because Big Pharma can’t be bothered to either learn or apply similar skills of persuasion. Industry’s disinterest and ineffectiveness when it comes to engaging the less sophisticated elements of the public is not a sin comparable to Mr. Trudeau’s serial hoodwinking. It only establishes the conditions under which quackery will always thrive.

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