Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a U.S.-based non-profit group. It is self described as "doctors and laypersons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research, and health promotion". [1]


PCRM was established in 1985 by Dr. Neal Barnard as an advocacy organization for preventive medicine, nutrition and ethics in research. PCRM has a paid staff of 35, with a membership of approximately 9,000 physicians, and 120,000 supporting members, including dietitians, psychologists, nurses, veterinarians, other science and health professionals, and lay people who support ethical research, laboratory animal advocacy and nutrition based health and preventive medicine.[2]

PCRM is an open membership charity. Memberships are $20.00 and include a subscription to Good Medicine magazine. [3]

Nutrition & diet

"Block Diabetes" TV Spot Featuring John Salley - PCRM - December 2010

PCRM promotes federal reform on nutrition policies and clinical research on diabetes, cancer and other conditions. It also provides public service announcements on health, cancer and prevention issues. [1] In particular, PCRM works to educate the public about scientific research demonstrating the health benefits of low fat, vegetarian diets. They reference a large body of scientific research linking meat and dairy consumption to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, asthma and other diseases.[4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

Clinical research on nutrition

PCRM conducts studies on the role of nutrition in relation to health issues such as diabetes, obesity and lipid management. Dr. Barnard's most recent clinical trial for a novel dietary program for treating type 2 diabetes was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program set a new standard for dietary approaches for this increasingly common condition. [9]

The China Study

PCRM board member Dr. Campbell is co-author of The China Study. This study culminated a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan is widely thought to be the most comprehensive study on nutrition and related diseases to date. The project produced over 8,000 statistically significant associations between diet and disease. The findings indicated that the consumers of the most animal-based foods suffered the most chronic diseases while those with the most plant based diets avoided these diseases and were the healthiest. Chronic diseases included heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Also studied were the effects of diet in reducing or reversing the risks of chronic disease. The study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and irresponsible scientists. [10]

Nutrition & orthodox medicine in the U.S.

Of the 125 medical schools in the U.S., only 30 require their students to take a course in nutrition. The average amount of hours spent on nutrition education for the average U.S. physician during four years of school is 2.5 hours. Physicians are therefore ill equipped to give nutritional advice and/or implement programs; even though most modern illnesses are life style related. Heart attacks are the most common cause of death in the U.S and arguably, the most preventable. The male consumer of meat in the U.S. has a 50% risk of a heart attack in his life time as opposed to 15% for the male non-meat eater. Reducing intake of animal products greatly reduces this risk and eliminating animal products reduces this risk by 90%. [11]

See also meat & dairy industry, sections 4 & 5 & section 6 on animal products & health issues.

NBA champion John "Spider" Salley talks about fighting diabetes with healthy food choices in a 30-second TV public service announcement for PCRM. (right) See also Resources for Diabetes.[12]

Challenging industry & diet claims

NDC retracts diet claims

The National Dairy Council (NDC) is a peak U.S. dairy industry lobby group. According to its website, the NDC is "dedicated to educating the public on the health benefits of consuming milk and milk products throughout a person’s lifespan."[13] In the spring of 2007, the NDC retracted its claims of weight loss attributed to dairy consumption. The ad campaign featured slogans like, “Milk your diet. Lose weight!” and suggested that three servings of dairy products could contribute to weight loss. Another campaign called “Body by Milk”, was aimed at teenagers. It featured Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees, and Carrie Underwood, an “American Idol” winner. According to a May 3, letter from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to PCRM, the NDC agreed to retract the ads and marketing materials:

“until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss.” [14]

In April of 2005, PCRM petitioned the FTC to stop the campaign, calling it "false and misleading." In May of 2005, they asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent packaged dairy products to from claiming links between weight loss and dairy consumption. In June of 2005, PCRM sued various food companies and the NDC. The ad campaign based its claims of health and weight loss on studies conducted at the University of Tennessee by Michael Zemel, PhD. Dr. Zemel had received $1.68 million dollars in grants since 1998 from the NDC. His studies purportedly showed that people on low-calorie diets not only lose weight if they consume dairy products, but lose weight more rapidly. He attributed this to "dietary calcium". [15]

Thousands were duped into believing that dairy products could make them lose weight by a slick ad campaign that cost the dairy industry over $200 million dollars. In response to the 2005 petition filed by PCRM with the FTC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and two national dairy organizations agreed to halt the ad campaign. This included the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board’s “Milk your diet. Lose weight!” and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board’s “3-a-Day. Burn More Fat, Lose Weight” promotions. Weight loss claims were based on three studies by Dr. Zemel, a researcher funded by the NDC and yogurt manufacturers. According to critics, Dr. Zemel’s studies were small, poorly controlled, reported with only minimal details and yielded inconsistent results. [16]

Atkins diet

In March of 2005, lawyers for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. admitted in court that they were willing to "assume the diet was dangerous". This marked the first public admission of any kind regarding Atkins diet related health risks. According Dan Kinburn, lead attorney in the lawsuit against Atkins; the complete medical records of the late Dr. Robert Atkins were requested. Records from the New York medical examiner reveal that Atkins was overweight, tipping the scales at nearly 260 pounds and may have had cardiovascular disease. A year before his death, Dr. Atkins suffered a cardiac arrest, although he and his private physician issued statements denying that the episode was a result of arterial blockage. Dr. Atkins died in a fall outside his New York offices in April of 2003. [17]


Court rules against USDA secrecy & conflicts of interest

On December 15, 1999, PCRM and several other individual and group plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2000 Chair Cutberto Garza, under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). FACA requires an advisory committee to comprise a fair balance of points of view and functions and prohibits special interests. It also requires the committee to disclose all documents to the public and hold public meetings. USDA Dietary Guidelines are revised by the committee every 5 years.

The Dietary Guidelines are the principal federal policy document on diet. Their purpose is to educate consumers on dietary choices which promote health and avoid or postpone diet-related chronic diseases. They form the basis for all federal food assistance and nutrition programs, including the School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Food Stamp Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, it appeared that this committee's underlying purpose was to promote certain agricultural interests. The members were to have been appointed based on their scientific knowledge of nutrition. However, out of 11 members, 6 members currently or recently had financial interests in the meat, dairy or egg industries. Even the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture, who participated in meetings, had a business relationship with Dannon dairy products. [18], [19]

In October of 2000, the court ruled that the USDA violated federal law by withholding documents and hiding financial conflicts of interest. PCRM's suit also charged that the government undercut the public’s ability to participate in and understand the committee’s activities. While the USDA provided information showing financial conflicts of interest for six committee members, Judge Robertson faulted the USDA for refusing to provide information involving a payment of over $10,000 to one member. According to PCRM President, Dr. Neal Barnard:

“Having advisors tied to the meat or dairy industries is as inappropriate as letting tobacco companies decide our standards for air quality.

Earlier in the year, PCRM’s efforts to change federal diet guidelines won support from the NAACP, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, Martin Luther King, III, Muhammad Ali, and many others who objected to over promotion of meat and dairy products. Lactose intolerance and diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, have a higher incidence among racial minorities. PCRM gained a partial victory in February, when the committee accepted non-dairy foods, such as soy milk, as acceptable alternatives to dairy products. [20]

PCRM sues USDA over food pyramid

In January of 2011, PCRM sued two federal agencies for ignoring a vegetarian alternative to the traditional food pyramid; in spite of skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates. PCRM asserted that the USDA and the HHS violated federal law by failing to respond to a PCRM petition offering a simple, plant-based alternative, (the Power Plate) as an alternative to the USDA's food pyramid (MyPyramid). According to PCRM's nutrition education director, registered dietitian Susan Levin:

"We are asking the government to protect the average American, not special agribusiness interests. MyPyramid is confusing, and it recommends meat and dairy products despite overwhelming evidence that these foods are unnecessary and unhealthy. Research shows the Power Plate is a better choice, and it's simple enough that a child could follow it."

Since the first USDA food pyramid was introduced nearly 20 years ago, obesity and diabetes have become commonplace. About 27%t of young adults are now too overweight to qualify for military service. An estimated one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. The lawsuit charges that the federal government address the worsening epidemics of obesity and diet-related diseases by adopting the Power Plate food diagram and dietary guidelines. The Power Plate graphic is based on current nutrition research showing that plant-based foods are the most nutrient-dense and help prevent chronic diseases. The graphic depicts a plate divided into four new food groups: fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables. There are no portion sizes and food hierarchies to follow. The Power Plate simply recommends eating a variety of all four of its food groups each day. [21], [22]

On June 2, 2011, the USDA announced that the 'Healthy Plate' would replace the 'Food Pyramid'. See also USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Government subsidized agribusiness & health issues

For more information on USDA product promotion, subsidized agribusiness, 'commodity foods' subsidies and high risk meat products, see also USDA.

Research ethics & advocacy

Gov. Bill Richardson calls for USDA investigation of transfer of Alamogordo chimps. - PCRM - November 2010

PCRM promotes alternatives to animal testing. They have advocated to end gruesome experiments like Department of Defense (DOD) cat shooting studies, DEA narcotics experiments and monkey self-mutilation projects. They also promote non-animal methods in medical education. Currently, more than three-quarters of all U.S. medical schools have discontinued animal testing for medical students. PCRM advocates for higher standards of ethics and efficacy in research and also opposes unethical research involving humans. According to PCRM, while progress has been made in eliminating unethical research, many problems remain. For example, children are still given synthetic growth hormones in experiments to make them grow taller. Both adults and children are exposed to unnecessary new drugs which have toxic effects. [23]

Thousands of rats, mice, rabbits, dogs, and primates are killed in "pre-clinical" tests for new drugs (including all ingredients and even minor differences in formulas). Following an extensive battery of animal testing, drugs generally undergo three phases of clinical trials. The fact that months or years of human studies are also required suggests health authorities do not trust the results. [24] In 2004, the FDA reported that 92 out of every 100 drugs that successfully pass animal trials, subsequently fail human trials. [25], [26] See also animal testing, sections 1 through 3.

Alamogordo chimps

On November 18, 2010, PCRM joined former Gov. Bill Richardson, the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Protection of New Mexico at a joint press conference to request the USDA stop the transfer of retired chimpanzees in Alamogordo, New Mexico, to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. (right) See also SFBR.

Other groups

PCRM has partnered with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on many issues, including a campaign to reduce animal use in toxicity testing.[27] See also animal testing, section 3 on product (toxicity) testing.

Groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) have made accusations along the lines of PCRM being a "front group for an animal rights agenda" or similar claims. In fact, purported "activist agendas" are one of CCF's pet themes ("activist" having a negative connotation). This is more or less an invention of groups like CCF. Both PCRM and PETA are member funded charities, as opposed to corporations or industries. PETA's and PCRM's work and/or finances occasionally overlap as does much of their membership. In fact, they often use the same mailing lists.

Anti-PCRM disinformation campaigns

Anti-PCRM propaganda and disinformation campaigns are generated by industry front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom. Such organizations have clients who have been subjects of campaigns and investigations for animal cruelty and welfare violations. They also perceive the general direction of their advocacy as a threat to commercial interests. See also A visit to the web site & Richard Berman cares about animals: clients exposed. The Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) is also an industry-funded organization whose clients have been subjects of various investigations and campaigns. See also Americans for Medical Progress.

For more general information, see also Humane Movement.

Funding & finances

PCRM is This organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The organization's total reported income for the fiscal year ending in July 2008 was $7,302,044.00. President Neal Barnard's compensation was $56,924.00.[28]

Personnel & board

  • Neal Barnard, MD - President and founder. Associate Professor, George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Barnard also initiated the The Cancer Project, a nonprofit focusing on prevention, public education and nutrition and the Washington Center for Clinical Research, for diet and health studies. He is editor-in-chief of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians and the author of over a dozen books. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the American Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Scientific American, the American Journal of Cardiology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Lancet Oncology, Preventive Medicine and many other scientific and medical journals. Dr. Barnard grew up on a cattle ranch in Fargo, ND. [29]
  • President; Mark Sklar, M.D., Director
  • Russell Bunai, M.D., Secretary Treasurer
  • Mindy Kursban, Esq., Director
  • Barbara Wasserman, M.D., Director

Advisory Board

  • T. Colin Campbell - Ph.D. - T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of nutrition research for over 40 years. His legacy, the China Study, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project.

Dr. Campbell received his master's degree and Ph.D. from Cornell, where he presently holds his Endowed Chair (now Emeritus). Dr. Campbell has studied the effects of nutrition on long term health, particularly on the cause of cancer; since the late 1950's. He has also lectured extensively and authored more over 300 research papers. [30]

  • Henry J. Heimlich, M.D., Sc.D., The Heimlich Institute. Originator of the lifesaving Heimlich Maneuver. The technique has also been shown effective in saving drowning victims, asthma sufferers and cystic fibrosis patients. Dr. Heimlich also works to promote peaceful solutions to international problems through the A Caring World program. [31]

Advisory Board

Accessed October 2013: [33]

Senior Nutrition Scientist

  • Amy J. Lanou, Ph.D. - Dr. Lanou researches and writes about the connection between plant-based diets and reduced risk of chronic diseases. In recent years, she has focused particularly on nutrition and bone health. Her project and campaigns assist laypersons and health care providers shift to low-fat vegetarian diets with the goal of long term wellness. As PCRM's nutrition director, she established numerous campaigns promoting healthy nutrition. These included the Healthy School Lunch, Safe Diets, and Not Dairy campaigns.

Dr. Lanou publishes regularly on the relationship between dairy products and health concerns. She is the author of numerous op-eds on nutrition, public health, and government and corporate policy. She is the author of Building Bone Vitality.[34]


5100 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 400
Washington, DC 20016

Phone: 202-686-2210

Fax: 202-686-2216

Web address:

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "About PCRM", Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, accessed January 2011
  2. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine", Better Business Bureau, accessed January 11, 2011
  3. Support PCRM, PCRM accessed February 2009
  4. Teresa T. Fung, ScD Dietary Patterns, Meat Intake and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women, Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 164 No. 20, November 2004
  5. Yiqing Song, MD A Prospective Study of Red Meat Consumption and Type 2 Diabetes in Middle-Aged and Elderly Women, American Diabetes Association, Inc., 27:2108-2115, 2004
  6. M.A. Sanjoaquin Nutrition, lifestyle and colorectal cancer incidence: a prospective investigation of 10,998 vegetarians and non-vegetarians in the United Kingdom British Journal of Cancer, pg 118–121, published on-line January 2004
  7. June M Chan Dairy products, calcium and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians' Health Study, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 74, No. 4, pg. 549-554, October 2001
  8. Vegetarian Foods: Powerful for Health (references numerous clinical studies), PCRM, accessed January 2011
  9. Experts: Neal Barnard, M.D., PCRM, April 2007
  10. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell II About The China Study, The China Study, accessed January 2011
  11. The Meat Free Life: How to Win an Argument With a Meat-Eater, Hinduism Today, Essay #2, July 1993
  12. Food for Life: Resources for Diabetes, PCRM, accessed January 2011
  13. About National Dairy Council, National Dairy Council, accessed January 2011
  14. Kim Severson Dairy Council to End Ad Campaign That Linked Drinking Milk With Weight Loss, New York Times, May 2007
  15. Alan Pell Crawford Alert: can you really lose weight by drinking milk? BNET, Business Network, Vegetarian Times, Sept 2005
  16. USDA, Dairy Industry End Dairy-Weight Loss Advertisements, PCRM, News & Media Center, June 2007
  17. Jeanne S. McVey Lawyers for Diet Giant Concede in Court that Diet May Be Dangerous; Attorneys Attempt to Quash Release of Potentially Damaging Documents, Studies on Atkins Diet Safety, PCRM, News & Media Center, March 2005
  18. Dietary Guidelines , U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 2005
  19. PCRM sues Glickman and Shalala, PCRM, December 1999
  20. Court Rules Against USDA’s Secrecy and Failure to Disclose Conflict of Interest in Setting Nutrition Policies, PCRM, October 2000
  21. Linda Shrieves Doctors' group sues USDA over vegetarian alternative to food pyramid, Orlando Sentinel, January 06, 2011
  22. Power Plate, PCRM, accessed January 2011
  23. About PCRM: Research Advocacy: We encourage higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research, PCRM, accessed February 2009
  24. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  25. Harding, A. More compounds failing phase I. FDA chief warns that high drug attrition rate is pushing up the cost of drug development. The Scientist, August 6th 2004
  26. NHP Study: Evidence from Europeans for Medical Progress and Antidote-Europe, Safer Medicines Campaign, pg 1, accessed February 2009
  27. PCRM 2003: The Year in Review, Good Medicine Magazine, Winter 2004
  28. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine", Better Business Bureau, accessed January 11, 2011
  29. Experts: Neal Barnard, M.D., PCRM News & Media Center, April 2007
  30. T. Collin Campbell, Huffington Post, accessed January 2011
  31. Welcome to the Heimlich Institute, Heimlich Institute, 2007
  32. About PCRM, PCRM, accessed January 2011
  33. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine About, organizational web page, accessed October 7, 2013.
  34. Experts: Amy J. Lanou, Ph.D., PCRM News & Media Center, accessed January 2011

External articles

External resources