How the American Medical Association Got Rich
May 03, 2008
The American Medical Association (AMA) was dictatorially led for the first half of the 20th century by Dr. George H. Simmons and his protégé Dr. Morris Fishbein. Simmons and Fishbein both served as general manager of the organization and as editor of its journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Dana Ullman‘s book, "The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy"
describes how, in 1899, Simmons began his 25-year reign as head of the AMA. At that time, it was a weak organization with little money and little respect from the general public. Simmons came up with the idea to transform the AMA into a big business by granting the AMA‘s "seal of approval" to certain drug companies that placed large and frequent ads in JAMA.
Advertising revenue increased substantially, from $34,000 in 1899 to $150,000 in 1909. Critics of the AMA have called their seal-of-approval program nothing but a form of extortion, since the AMA did no testing of any products.
In 1924, Simmons was forced out of the AMA due to the many scandals swirling around him. One investigation revealed that:
- Simmons had no credible medical credentials
- He worked primarily as an abortion doctor for many years
- He had had sex charges brought by some of his patients as well as charges of negligence in the deaths of others
When he left, he took home all his personal files and burned them.
His replacement, Morris Fishbein, was a specialist in publicity and the media; he was a medical doctor who never practiced medicine.
Shortly after he became head of the AMA, he wrote several books sharply critical of medical practices that were not AMA approved. He called chiropractic a "malignant tumor," and he considered osteopathy and homeopathy "cults." Fishbein also extended Simmons‘s idea for the AMA seal of approval to foods, and by including a significant amount of advertising from food and tobacco companies, he was able to make the AMA and himself even richer.
By 1950, the AMA‘s advertising revenue exceeded $9 million, thanks in great part to the tobacco companies.