Martha Rosenberg is a former advertising copywriter who knows a lot about marketing. She began as an investigative journalist and since has been on TV and radio as a health expert. Martha has taught about drug marketing tactics at a Chicago medical school and is part of the FDA press corps. Her book "Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health," exposes what goes on behind the scenes in the food and drug industries.
Latest by Martha Rosenberg
By Martha Rosenberg | February 4, 2016
More than 17,000 people are dying every year in the United States from opioid overdoses. Emergency room admissions for opioids other than heroin leaped from 299,000 in 2001 to 885,000 in 2011 and are still growing. Narcotics, once limited to acute pain after injury and surgery and terminal illnesses, have made a comeback for two reasons: Younger clinicians lack the addiction awareness of their older peers, and the drug industry has pushed them.
As problems with addiction and diversion of opioids (also called narcotics) surfaced in the 1960s and 1970s, regulations were put in place to restrict their use and tighten their control. But by the 1990s, the pendulum had swung back, thanks to new pills like OxyContin and the …
By Martha Rosenberg | January 18, 2016
Despite the wonders of the Western diet, the United States has some of the least fit people in the world. We develop high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diabetes, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease from poor food choices, often in front of TV—and then aching backs, painful joints, poor circulation, and more from the obesity that results.
The family meal, where we learned portion control and restraint, is a dying cultural icon. Parents used to lament setting the table with the TV remote—now they threaten they will stab any kids bringing their cells to the table with a fork. The threats don’t help. Overeating is often correlated with doing something else while eating and not giving total attention …
By Martha Rosenberg | January 12, 2016
From the debut of Prozac in 1988, 10 years before direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising, one of the top-performing drug categories in the United States was depression drugs. Because depression has no drug or lab test and pop culture has convinced many that life should be one big “buzz” of extreme happiness, “depression” sailed Pharma through the 1990s and 2000s—even sometimes when people really didn’t probably have it. Certainly, if you had money, job, and career problems, family and relationship problems, or many kinds of health problems, you could be “unhappy” but not necessarily “depressed.”
Whereas drugs like Valium and Librium were once prescribed for “anxiety,” anxiety was redefined as “really” depression during the blockbuster antidepressant years and was treated with …
By Martha Rosenberg | November 18, 2015
The year was 1976. New journalism writer Tom Wolfe coined the term the “Me Decade” to characterize the unprecedented sharing, self-disclosure, self-centeredness, and sheer self-importance that was starting to be displayed by everyday people. “Let’s talk about ME” he joked, the most important person in the room!—referring to the new cachet of narcissism that was starting to be bestowed on every citizen by the self-esteem and human potential movements.
Except for a few public or sports figures like Muhammad “I’m the greatest” Ali, calling attention to yourself, let alone your skills, talents, and achievements was uncommon and unseemly 40 years ago. As New Orleans musician great Allen Toussaint who passed away in November reflected on his website when discussing his …
By Martha Rosenberg | October 4, 2015
It looks like the pill profit party is over for drug companies. Bestselling pills like Lipitor, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Singular, Concerta, Cymbalta, and Abilify have gone off patent and Wall Street is moving on to industries that offer better returns.
To combat investor disenchantment, drug companies have rolled out expensive drugs that treat rare conditions. If you are sleepy during the day, you may have narcolepsy said Jazz Pharmaceuticals, a condition its drug Xyrem treats for $35,000 per year. If you have frequent diarrhea, gas, and bloating, you may have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency states the company AbbVie, which can be helped by its drug Creon.
Drug makers are not above scaring the populace if it will sell drugs for rare diseases. …
By Martha Rosenberg | July 2, 2015
Selling milk looks easy and even fun when you see the “Got Milk” celebrity mustache ads. It’s neither. Despite more than twenty years of the mustache ads, milk sales continue to fall at a fast clip. The National Dairy Promotion and Research Program and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program, responsible for milk marketing, blame weak sales on calcium fortified juices and vitamin enhanced beverages which they say have “undermined” milk’s healthy image and are more available than milk “in many eating establishments.”
While McDonald’s removal of soft drinks from Happy Meal menus and marketing materials may improve milk sales in young people, elsewhere there is such a glut of excess and unwanted milk that Vermont dairy producers actually …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 30, 2015
Can a presidential candidate achieve sufficient “guydom”–or in the case of Hillary Rodham Clinton, “gal-dom”–without being a gun lover or a hunter?
Hunters, who are 96 percent white and 90 percent male, only constitute four percent of the nation. Yet despite their dwindling numbers (which have dropped 26 percent in the last two decades and 37 percent among the young) they hold disproportionate sway over lawmakers, like the NRA.
One reason is dollars: hunters buy licenses that pay the salaries of state wildlife officials who then create hunting opportunities so they can sell hunters licenses. This environmental cronyism is in open defiance of the Public Trust Doctrine which provides that the land be held for the benefit of the …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 25, 2015
Many in China and the rest of the world were horrified that once again the Yulin Dog Meat Festival was held in June, over the protest of horrified animal lovers. As many as 10,000 dogs were eaten in the Chinese town, many skinned alive, as feasters also bought ram heads and live civet cats.
Supporters of the event charged critics’ hypocrisy. “What about the consumption of beef when cows are considered sacred in India, they say, or guinea pigs in Latin America, or dogs in Korea or turkeys in the United States? What makes eating dog meat any different from eating the flesh of chickens or pigs, they ask?” reported the New York Times.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 25, 2015
“You can’t see me because this is radio–and I can’t see you because I am blind.” So began an aggressive ad campaign Vanda pharmaceuticals rolled out last year for “non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder.” In the ad campaign the narrator says he is blind but his blindness doesn’t “hold me back” the way non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder does–because the latter finds him struggling “to keep up” since he is not “sleeping through the night.” The condition, mainly affecting people with blindness, causes tiredness during the day. He then says, “Sound familiar? You’re not alone!”
Now the watchdog group Public Citizen is charging that the FDA inappropriately expanded the approved use of Vanda’s drug, Hetlioz, for the disorder beyond its original indication for use …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 17, 2015
The fatal deer condition chronic wasting disease (CWD) is less well known than mad cow disease but related. Both are progressive, fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (brain diseases) which may have man-made origins. Mad cow disease is believed to stem from beef producers feeding cows to cows to save money and chronic wasting disease is traced back to Department of Wildlife experiments in the mid-1960s on wild deer and elk at the Foothills Wildlife Research Facility in Fort Collins, Colorado after which the first cases of deer and elk with CWD were noted.
Over ten years ago, Wisconsin endured a kind of deer holocaust in which so many deer came down with CWD, thousands of carcasses were stored in refrigerated trucks…
By Martha Rosenberg | June 15, 2015
Legal gun owner shoots 5
The flowers were impeccable and the guests were in black tie attire. Velvet ropes separated well-heeled guests and live music wafted. But something went horribly wrong at the formal wedding reception in the marbled-floor East Terrace at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan over the weekend.
Vladimir Gutlbovsky fired into the floor and injured five at the wedding reception, including one woman who was shot in the head. Four people were evacuated to hospitals. Gutlbovsky, who reportedly tried to pawn his gun off on someone else after the shooting, told the police he was a legal gun owner and carrier. Nice.
“Carriers,” people like George Zimmerman and Vladimir Gutlbovsky, on the lookout for “bad guys,” …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 11, 2015
Even as the U.S. lifts its 15-year import restriction on beef from Ireland (which was ground zero during mad cow scares) a likely new case of mad cow has turned up in Ireland. Both Norway and Canada are also reporting cases of mad cow disease which they hasten to call “atypical.”
Scientists rolled out the term “atypical” mad cow disease about three years ago when the U.S.’ fourth mad cow was found in California. The idea of a mad cow disease which “just happens” and doesn’t have a clear cause freed beef producers from trying to find the source of the disease, such as contaminated feed and from having to isolate herd mates and offspring as potential risky animals. …
By Martha Rosenberg | June 6, 2015
Chuck’s Gun Shop, responsible for more crime guns than any gun dealer in the nation was “closed for lunch” today when 300 anti-gun violence demonstrators converged at its Riverdale location outside of metropolitan Chicago. The activists, many displaying photos of their slain loved ones, were participating in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s “Stop Bad Apple Gun Dealers” action which asks dealers like Chuck’s to agree to a Gun Dealer Code of Conduct. The proposed code, which includes refusing to sell to straw and prohibited purchasers, screening of employees, reporting thefts and cooperating with law enforcement violates Chuck’s “rights” owner John Riggio said on the day before the demonstration Brady president Dan Gross told the crowd. Other …
By Martha Rosenberg | May 16, 2015
I have been a bird watcher for many years and name among my sightings rare green and tricolored herons, Mississippi kites, yellow crown herons, great horned owls and more. Last year I saw some newborn eaglets in a huge eagle’s nest.
But I don’t have to travel too far to see another interesting bird phenomenon right here in Chicago–wild birds are becoming tame and even bold.
Twenty years ago, sea gulls abounded on Lake Michigan as they do now. But only recently do they approach and beg from people. Anyone who goes to the beach during the summer has experienced sea gulls brazenly walking on their beach towels and raiding any food they have left while they are …
By Martha Rosenberg | May 7, 2015
By now, anyone who has a TV or computer has seen appalling scenes of farm cruelty against chickens, turkeys, calves, cows and pigs. Are conditions as bad as the activists say or do they have an “agenda” which is to make people go vegetarian?
In 2004, the Chicago Tribune’s Andrew Martin reported that “dozens of dead piglets are dumped in piles or encased in pools of manure beneath the floor, having drowned there after falling through a hole,” as he visited the HKY Farm in Bloomfield, NE. “Dead hogs remain in their cages, discarded and stiff in walkways or rotting …
By Martha Rosenberg | April 26, 2015
The year was 2010. The place–New Orleans where the American Psychiatric Association was holding its annual meeting. In a special presentation for the press, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shared breathlessly that her institute was working on a “vaccine” for drug addiction.
As a reporter who covers addiction/alcoholism and has members of both demographics in my family, I let out a gasp. You have to be pretty removed from the world of substance dependence to think a “vaccine” would do anything but make money for vaccine makers.
Addiction cannot be treated with a drug or pill because it is a disease of the mind, body and spirit as Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics …
By Martha Rosenberg | April 21, 2015
Since eggs don’t require an animal to die, like milk or dairy products, how can they be cruel? It is a question many ask today, especially if they have never visited an egg operation in which as many as 30,000 laying hens are crowded together in one barn.
Despite the “spin” about agriculture creating jobs, egg operations typically assign about one employee to 250,000 hens, housed in as many as sixteen barns. The only “care” the caretakers can provide, beside giving feed, is removing dead hens, “spent” hens to be euthanized and installing newly arrived hens from the hatchery.
Nor would you want to be in the barn longer than necessary. Concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide …
By Martha Rosenberg | April 18, 2015
There are many reasons to avoid drinking alcohol.
Sure, drinking may help you relax, fall asleep, or be more social and friendly—but there are downsides too. You can become dependent on alcohol and increasingly “drink your troubles away.” Alcohol in excess can harm your health—especially your liver.
Alcohol can also harm your looks, prematurely aging you, and provide unnecessary calories. And of course, alcohol’s dangers when you are driving are well-known.
Luckily, there are herbs that can help you relax when you feel you need a drink. The three below are not believed to be habit-forming and are believed safe, although you should read the labels carefully and consult a trained health practitioner if you have questions.
Anyone who …
By Martha Rosenberg | April 9, 2015
In science there is a concept called the “survivorship bias.” It refers to the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that “survived” some process while overlooking those that did not survive because they are hidden. One of the best examples of “survivorship bias” is the class reunion.
Where are the people whose fourth marriage failed? Who lived in their mother’s basement until they were forty … and now live in their sister’s basement? Where are the people who could not afford to jet in for a class reunion and stay at a fancy hotel?
For the most part, people who failed economically, professionally, socially, romantically, or bodily do not show up to class reunions, leaving the impression …
By Martha Rosenberg | March 21, 2015
It has been exactly two years since Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy was pulled off a city bus in Northern Indiana by a former boyfriend and shot to death in front of horrified bystanders, including children. “Jackie” as she was known, was a mother of three who had filed an order of protection against the shooter, Kenneth Knight.
More recently, horrified Black Friday shoppers at Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Nordstrom’s watched Marcus Dee shoot and kill his girlfriend, Nadia Ezaldein, while she worked at the cosmetics counter.
Nearly half the women killed every year in the United States are murdered by intimate partners, mostly with guns, reports the New York Times. Intimate partner homicide increases by 500 percent when a firearm …