Selling Sickness 2013We are thrilled to co-sponsor and attend the February 20-22, 2013 Selling Sickness conference in Washington DC, a consumer-oriented first of its kind grassroots conference in the US focusing on disease-mongering, or as conference co-organizer Kim Witczak puts it,  “how the pharmaceutical industry heavily influences the medical field by pushing the boundaries that define illness in order to sell their treatments.” The Selling Sickness conference will bring over 200 attendees from the US and around the world – including consumer advocates,  academicians, and journalists – to meet and share ideas on topics such as misleading drug company marketing; medical over-treatment; conflicts of interest in medicine; and medical device safety. Our Safe Patient Project staff will be bringing a small group of patient safety advocates to the conference and Consumers Union is getting the word out to people we know in the area. People before profits!

Kim Witczak 2012 SPP summit

Kim at CU’s 2012 Safe Patient Summit

Kim has worked with Consumers Union for years on improving drug safety, including in her home state of Minnesota, a state where many pharmaceutical companies are conducting business. Last year she worked with us on medical device safety, and her experience helped people who were newer to lobbying Congress on patient safety issues. Like most of the advocates we work with, Kim became active because of a personal tragedy and wanting to save other patients from having the same tragedy. Nearly 10 years ago, Kim’s husband Woody, took his own life after taking an antidepressent drug for five weeks. He had no history of mental illness or depression; his doctor gave him a 3 week sample of the drug for “insomnia.” You can read Woody’s story on Kim’s website woodymatters here.  Kim has done a lot to get the word out about Selling Sickness. If you’re in the DC area or can make a trip to DC, this conference will be well worth it!

I remember the first time Kim told me about organizing Selling Sickness, in 2011, when she was in Austin briefly for her work and we met to discuss it. (Our Safe Patient Project campaign is located in Austin). Her eyes lit up as she was telling me about attending a Selling Sickness conference in Amsterdam the year before, and the huge impact it had on her. I sensed that she had met many people there from different backgrounds who inspired new ways of thinking about drug safety issues. She wanted to bring this conference to the US, but she knew it would take a lot of work and countless hours. I remember her saying, “People would be shocked if they were told the truth about the drugs being advertised to them.” We are lucky to know and work with someone as dedicated as Kim, and patients are better off, too. We commend her for committing to making this dream of hers become a reality in 2013, next month.

Check out the Selling Sickness conference website for a list of speakers and registration details. What’s also unique about this conference is that it’s grassroots funded, not pharma funded. We hope to see you there!