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Pfizer Refuses To Pull Funding From Anti-Science Front Group, Says $45,000 Grant To Heartland Is ‘Best For Shareholders’

After Pfizer Contribution, Heartland Continues Attacks On Climate Science And Tobacco RisksBy Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts

Despite rising pressure from scientists and doctors, top Pfizer executives defended their affiliation with the Heartland Institute, brushing aside concerns that the group mocks the risks of tobacco smoking and vilifies climate scientists.

In a call with activists on Wednesday, Pfizer Corporate Secretary Matthew Lepore explained that Pfizer gave Heartland Institute $45,000 for 2012 and is considering future donations for 2013 and beyond. In recent months, Heartland’s president Joe Bast has compared believers in climate science to the Unabomber and claimed that the public health community has a campaign to “demonize smokers” based on “junk science.”

Lepore also stated that Pfizer isn’t concerned by the decisions of its competitors, such as Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer, to disassociate themselves with Heartland:

“We do things at Pfizer that are best for shareholders of Pfizer. What’s going to make us make our decision is where we make a determination that the benefits we receive from Heartland are no longer justified.”

The call with Pfizer executives was organized by Forecast the Facts on behalf of over 2000 members in the medical community, who have signed an open letter to Pfizer CEO Ian Read demanding that his company stop supporting Heartland.

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Lepore defended the “benefits we receive from Heartland” after being reminded by representatives from the National Wildlife Federation and Americans for Nonsmokers Rights that climate change and tobacco addiction are global health threats. The executives were told that Heartland’s claim that the risks of climate change and tobacco disease are junk science is ethically and morally unacceptable. Pfizer’s funding lends credibility to an organization that remains a front group for tobacco companies such as Altria and Reynolds American and polluters such as Murray Energy and Koch Industries.

The executives on the call minimized the severity of the climate and tobacco threats, which cost millions of lives around the world every year. Pfizer’s funding is “specifically designated for health care issues,” Lepore said, including vaccine regulation, academic detailing, and personalized medicine. “We can’t be very knee jerk on every issue that is brought to our attention,” said Marc Scarduffa, Vice President, Government Relations & Public Affairs. Pfizer produces Chantix, a nicotine replacement therapy for tobacco addiction, and Spiriva, which treats tobacco-related pulmonary disease.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is asking people to contact the two medical doctors on Pfizer’s board of directors with the message that “they can help protect Americans’ health by cutting off funding for climate denial groups.”

The climate advocacy organization Forecast the Facts announced Thursday they will be handing out flyers at Pfizer’s headquarters in New York City to Pfizer employees asking them to sever ties with the Heartland Institute.