Tell Pfizer: Defend Health, Not Heartland

VICTORY! After tens of thousands of Forecast the Facts members spoke out, including over 2,000 medical professionals, Pfizer announced that they will no longer be supporting the Heartland Institute. 

The Petition

The following is the letter we will send to Pfizer CEO Ian Read on your behalf, along with your comments: 

Ian Read
Chief Executive Officer
Pfizer, Inc.
235 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Read:

We are writing in regards to Pfizer’s support for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based political advocacy group. Heartland is best known for its prodigious efforts to denigrate the conclusions of climate science, but also does considerable work on health care issues, including supporting tobacco industry arguments questioning the health risks of smoking.

As you may be aware, a number of major health care corporations, including Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer have recently pulled their funding support from Heartland. We are deeply concerned to learn that Pfizer has not followed suit. Support for Heartland stands in direct contrast to Pfizer’s professed commitment to science and public health.

The remainder of this letter explains in detail our concerns, which are shared by the other health care professionals who are co-signers to this letter.

Heartland and Tobacco

Led by their president and CEO, Joseph Bast, Heartland has a long and disgraceful track record of misleading the public about the overwhelming scientific evidence that cigarette smoking poses significant health risks. The organization has also consistently argued against health-based regulation of tobacco products. Below are just a few of the numerous examples, which make clear that Heartland’s anti-health agenda is not confined to outside advisers or low-level staff.

  • On his organization’s “Smoker’s Lounge” webpage, Mr. Bast claims that “the threat of secondhand smoke has been greatly exaggerated.” [Heartland Institute, “Smoker’s Lounge”]
  • “Smoking in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects,” Mr. Bast has said. [Heartland, “Five Lies about Tobacco”]
  • “The public health community’s campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science,” Mr. Bast states. [Heartland, “Smoker’s Lounge”]

Heartland’s scientifically and morally indefensible advocacy on smoking is no surprise given that a significant portion of its funding has come from tobacco companies. In the past two years, Altria and Reynolds American contributed $90,000 and $110,000 respectively. But it bears mentioning that their efforts in this regard stand in direct contradiction to Pfizer’s longstanding concerns about the dangers of cigarette smoking. “Pfizer is committed to making the world a healthier place for future generations,” according to a publication about Pfizer’s contributions to cancer tobacco-control organizations. [Pfizer, “Working together to create a world without cancer: Global strategies that advance cancer and tobacco-control efforts”]

See further information about the Heartland Institute's positions on tobacco health risks.

Heartland and Climate Change 

Heartland similarly denigrates the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change poses significant health risks [McMichael 2012], and argues against health-based regulation of greenhouse pollution. The examples of Heartland’s work in this regard are legion. Below are just a few from Heartland President Joseph Bast:

  • “Global warming alarmism may become the latest case of junk science costing consumers and taxpayers billions (or even hundreds of billions) of dollars,” Mr. Bast argues. [Heartland, “How Junk Science Is Used to Raise Taxes”]
  • “Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth’s climate,” Mr. Bast claimed. [Heartland, “Eight Reasons Why ‘Global Warming’ Is A Scam”]
  • “The benefits of a modest warming would outweigh the costs – by $8.4 billion a year in 1990 dollars by the year 2060, according to Robert Mendelsohn at Yale University – thanks to longer growing seasons, more wood fiber production, lower construction costs, lower mortality rates, and lower rates of morbidity (illness).” [Heartland, “Testimony by Joseph L. Bast to the Environment Committee of the Iowa House”]
  • “The best estimates of the net economic impact of the warming predicted by computer models show a small benefit–thanks to lower prices for energy, forestry products, and food–and unequivocal benefits to human health and longevity,” Mr. Bast states. [Heartland, “Attorneys General Global Warming Lawsuit: A Desperation Ploy”]

Heartland’s campaign to dismiss the fundamental health threat of climate change is supported by industrial greenhouse polluters. Carbon-intensive steelmaker Nucor contributed $502,000 and coal company Murray Energy $100,000 since 2010. An anonymous donor also contributes about a million dollars a year to the Heartland Institute for its climate-denial work.

“As a science-based health care company, Pfizer has long recognized the risks posed by global climate change, such as more severe weather events and potential adverse impacts on human health,” your company’s climate change statement reads. This is another significant instance where the Heartland Institute’s work on health threats stands opposed to your own.


See further information about the Heartland Institute's positions on climate change.

Heartland and Pfizer

In recent years, Pfizer contributed $130,000 to the Heartland Institute. Records disclosed in tobacco litigation indicate Pfizer contributed to Heartland going back to 1994. It is disturbing that a company founded on science, and with a mission to promote public health, has joined the tobacco and fossil fuel industries to support the kind of anti-science, anti-health ideas that are Heartland’s stock and trade.

Following the release of Heartland’s budget documents, and a Heartland Institute-sponsored billboard that compared people who accept climate science to the Unabomber, there has been a public campaign for corporations to end their affiliation with the Heartland Institute, primarily because of its attacks on climate science and climate scientists. Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer responsibly have ended their relationship with the organization.

However, Pfizer continues to publicly defend its relationship, saying “[o]ur company and its stakeholders derive significant benefits from our involvement with [the Heartland Institute], which help advance our business objectives related to healthcare policy.” 

It is of interest to note that Mr. Bast made a similar point in a fundraising letter to the tobacco company Philip Morris (now Altria): “Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris’ bottom line, things that no other organization does.”

Given Heartland’s extreme stance on the risks of tobacco smoke and climate pollution, its vilification of the public health community, and its significant financial support by the tobacco industry, it behooves Pfizer and other corporations in the health care industry to unambiguously end their relationship with the Heartland Institute. 

We, the undersigned medical professionals, call on Pfizer and other health-related corporations to repudiate the Heartland Institute and cut all ties to the organization immediately.

Respectfully yours,

The undersigned medical professionals



cc: Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer Chief Medical Officer, Caroline Roan, Pfizer Vice President for Corporate Responsibility

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