Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Godfather of Plan B

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. - Benito Mussolini

For those who don't know, Don Downing has been the go-to-guy on Plan B, or "grandfather of Plan B" as they affectionately call him in the abortion industry. Around here we like to call him the Godfather of Plan B. He's the person primarily responsible for setting up the "prescriptive authority agreements" here in Washington and around the country allowing anyone, anywhere, anytime, access to Plan B. (Backgrounder information on the prescriptive authority agreements and history of Plan B in Washington State can be found here.)

Mr. Downing is also the author of, Emergency Contraception: The Pharmacist's Role and, his personal pean to contraceptives and Plan B, Pharmacist Prescribing of Emergency Contraception: The Washington State Experience, both published by the American Pharmaceutical Association.

He's also one of the major players in what has become an all too common effort to use the power of the state to stifle dissent, usurp the U.S. and Washington constitutions, and potentially put people out of work who think there are more important things in life than helping the abortion industry gain yet another toe-hold in American life. All of this in an effort to further the interests of a financially powerful industry. In fairness to Mr. Downing, the politicians, at least here in Washington state, have either given silent approval, given verbal approval (Luke Esser (R)), or given enthusiastic verbal approval (Karen Kaiser (D), Fred Jarret (R), Geoff Simpson (D)).

Both the documents linked to above tipped us off to his deep ties to the abortion, population control, and pharmaceutical industries. Yes, of course, "women's health" and "preventing abortion" were used to sell, or "socially market" the idea of Plan B to the state pharmacy association, the media, professional elites, and politicians. In a touch of class, pharmacists who agreed to distribute Plan B were featured in newsletters. (See this excellent document on social marketing as it specifically pertains to Plan B.)

But we know a racket when we see one.

We really started to question Mr. Downing and the incestuous relationship between him, Barr Laboratories (manufacturer of Plan B), Planned Parenthood of Western Washington (investor, developer, and now marketer/seller of Plan B) and state boards of pharmacy when we noticed he could be found anywhere Plan B or Barr Laboratories was found. He sure seemed to have a lot of time to fly around the country. And who was paying for all those trips to Maine and Illinois anyway? Then we found out he had his own company to promote pharmacist prescribed medications.

According to this document,

Mr. Downing facilitates the implementation of patient care services provided by pharmacists in Washington State. This effort primarily involves the active integration of pharmacists into the health care team in areas of disease management and illness prevention. These efforts are performed in the public sector through the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy and in the private sector as director of the wellness and disease management company known as PEAK Solutions, LLC.

We knew we were on to something when we further discovered that part of Barr Labs' distribution and marketing plan included, "‘leveraging’ of State Boards of Pharmacy" and that Don Downing was traveling the country to, well, what could only be described as, 'leverage' state boards of pharmacy.

Here's a sampling of just the Google cached travels of Don Downing to various conferences and boards of pharmacy; sponsored by you-know-who.

Don in Illinois in May 2006
Along with friends: Brigid Leahy, IL. Planned Parenthood
Melissa Masenbacker, Barr Labs

Don Downing in Maine
Pharmacist Training Program: Emergency Contraception In Maine
Don Downing, R.Ph. / Continuing Education: 3 CEs
Sponsor: Barr Laboratories

Don in New Mexico
Don Downing, PharmD, from Washington State and Diana Koster, MD, conducted a train-the-trainer program in December 2003. The pharmacists certified in this program are leading additional training programs in 2004, in more rural and remote areas across New Mexico. These trainings were made possible through a grant from Barr Laboratories.

Don in Oregon (This link is broken at the moment)
“Pharmacy-Based Emergency Contraception: An Action Agenda for Pharmacists”
This Program has Been Made Possible in Part by: Barr Laboratories, Inc.

When he goes to these events I don't see any mention of Peak Solutions. I only see his UW and pharmacy credentials. Is there something wrong with a university professor using his position at a public institution to lobby for a private company in order to enrich his own bank account at the expense of public health? Maybe the UW is paying for these trips, which doesn't improve the situation. Perhaps he travels long hours and attends boring BOP meetings without taking a dime for himself, which is only a slight improvement. Wherever the money trail ultimately leads, we still have a huge array of forces lined up against the conscience rights of pharmacists, the health of Washington's women, and the children who will be potentially aborted with this drug.

Maybe after this whole Plan B thing is over I imagine Merck might be looking for someone who knows a thing or two about leverage.

(Ed. note: This is the first in a series of articles covering the pharmacists conscience clause leading up to the Board of Pharmacy's March 29th meeting.)

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