by Ted Chabasinski on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11:19am
(This article appeared in the New York Times on July 25, 2012.)
GlaxoNovartisPfizerLillyMerck (GNPLM), the world’s largest maker of psychiatric drugs, startled the business and mental health communities today by announcing it had appointed Ted Chabasinski as its chief executive officer. Mr. Chabasinski, a former mental patient who for decades was a sharp critic of the drug industry and psychiatric practices, has no previous business or medical experience. An attorney, he has been best known recently as the Senior Lecturer on Political Correctness for the Demented Killers Liberation Front, a little-known but influential group within the so-called antipsychiatry movement.
A spokesperson for GNPLM said that the company had decided to make the risky choice of appointing Mr. Chabasinski because it recognized that it needed “fresh new ideas” after its annual profit dropped precipitously from $21 trillion in 2010 to $20.1 trillion in 2011. Furthermore, the company said it was especially alarmed by the large fines levied by regulators for its practice of promoting its psychiatric drugs for unapproved uses, especially for children. Such fines reached the level of nearly one percent of its profits last year, a situation the GNPLM representative called “tragic.”
There were apparently several advantages the company perceived in appointing Mr. Chabasinski. One was the improved image the company would acquire by having one of its harshest critics now become its public face. Another was that Mr. Chabasinski, an American, could better position the company to take advantage of the enormous opportunity presented by the recent revelation of the American Psychiatric Association, a GNPLM subsidiary, that 300 million Americans are mentally ill.
Mr. Chabasinski’s former colleagues in the “antipsychiatry” movement, for the most part, were bitterly opposed to the drug company’s move But some said they believed that Mr. Chabasinski’s appointment showed that GNPLM had turned over a new leaf. “Let’s not label them and prevent them from making a positive change,” said Charity Moldau, a member of one of the “antipsychiatry” groups. “Let’s have faith in our leaders.”
Reached by satellite phone at the secret headquarters of the Demented Killers Liberation Front “somewhere on the west coast,” a spokesman for the group, who gave his name only as “Napoleon,” said they were “considering our options.”
“Our lawyers say that Chabasinski was within his rights under the First Amendment to change what he advocates for. We believe in the First Amendment, and we believe in the Second Amendment too,” he said. Sounds of gunfire were heard during the conversation with Mr. Napoleon.
Interviewed in his new offices on Grand Cayman Island, Mr. Chabasinski sought to disarm his critics in both the “antipsychiatry” and business communities. He said that both groups could benefit from an alliance.
He pointed out that the consumer groups would benefit by having more and more people taking psychiatric drugs, as there would then be more consumers from which they could recruit. Furthermore, the consumer movement, which is perceived to have little influence among the young, would now be able to acquire members as young as six months old.
He proposed an alliance between the GNPLM and the consumer movement, whereby GNPLM would provide unrestricted grants to certain nonprofits to provide thousands of jobs for their members. In return, the consumers would do the work formerly done by professional lobbyists and highly-paid representatives, advocating for the use of GNPLM’s medications with younger and younger consumers.
This outsourcing of the work would benefit both the company and the consumer groups, Mr. Chabasinski pointed out. Consumers, who often have difficulty obtaining employment, would be able to earn minimum wages while making a valuable contribution to society. On the other hand, besides lowering its labor costs, GNPLM would be insulated from the unreasonable regulatory sanctions it has recently faced, as the advocacy for broadening the use of its products would be done at the grassroots level, with no direct control by the corporation.
Furthermore, Mr. Chabasinski pledged increased charitable giving to such groups as the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), which he pointed out also has recently appointed a consumer as its president. Reformers within that group have been critical of its funding, which comes entirely from four or five pharmaceutical companies, and have called for funding that is more “diverse.”
Mr. Chabasinski said that his company could provide such diversity, as it has several hundred subsidiaries, shell companies, and interlocking directorates. Thus, NAMI could be provided with hundreds of smaller grants, lessening its dependence on any one funder. Mr. Chabasinski said that, “Of course, the grants would be unrestricted, although we would expect that NAMI will continue with its fine work of promoting our products and advocating for fewer unnecessary legal rights for the poor sick people that our organizations are trying to help.”
Asked how his change in career goals had come about, Mr. Chabasinski said he had had a “near religious experience.” “I was meditating over my bank statement, which showed that in a few months, I was not going to be able to pay my rent. Deep in thought, I had an epiphany. Why not sell out and make lots of money? Now, instead of worrying about money all the time, I can buy anything I want, which adds profound spiritual meaning to my life.”
Furthermore, Mr. Chabasinski said he was grateful for the example of other pragmatic consumer leaders who had gone the same route. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their inspiration,” he said. “I chose GNPLM, rather than a federal agency or a private nonprofit, because I thought, why not go to the people who really run the mental health system?”
Mr. Chabasinski is now urging his new employers to sponsor his candidacy for President of the United States. He points out that with the new opportunities that the hundreds of millions of mentally ill people in the United States present to GNPLM, it would be advantageous if the company controls the United States government openly, rather than through the present indirect arrangement.
Although it is too late to get on the ballot in most states, Mr. Chabasinski says that this can be overcome by GNPLM taking the admittedly bold step of using two or three trillion dollars of its unused profits to pay people to vote for him by writing in his name. He pointed out this is now allowed by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling extending its Citizens United doctrine that spending unlimited money on elections is a form of free speech. In GlaxoNovartisPfizerLillyMerck vs. State of Vermont, the court adopted Mr. Chabasinski’s argument that, since Citizens United held that money is just a form of speech, paying people for their votes is no different from persuading them by talking to them.
Whether Mr. Chabasinski persuades GNPLM to take such a bold step or not, he says he has learned that one thing is clear:
“With enough money, you can get anyone to do anything.”
Ted Chabasinski, J.D. blogger at Mad in America
Ted Chabasinski, J.D. blogger at Mad in America