For this item I'm indebted to my distinguished bioethicist colleague Art Caplan:
In HOOKED I discussed how Pharma had occasionally made use of SLAPP, or "strategic lawsuit(s) against public participation." The basic idea behind SLAPP is that there are two parties to a dispute, one with a lot of power and money, the other with little of either. The weaker party has a legitimate gripe against the stronger. If it actually went to court, the weaker party would almost surely prevail. The stronger party then pre-emptively files, or threatens to file, a lawsuit against the other, knowing that while the suit is a sure loser in the long run the weaker party would be bankrupted by the legal fees required to defend itself. The stronger party then says it will make nice and drop the suit, so long as the weaker party agrees to be quiet and not get in the way of the stronger party's plans. Ideally the SLAPP has two outcomes. First, the party that is actually creating trouble for the stronger party's plans will go away. Second, other potential critics who might be waiting in the wings will be silenced out of fear of a similar action being taken against them.
Caplan tells us how commercial stem cell clinics, many located outside of US jurisdiction and taking full advantage of lax oversight, are promising totally unproven cures. The International Society for Stem Cell Research, a group of scientists, has been worried about these practices and initially responded by posting on its website a list of the available body of evidence to show what is known about what stem cells have so far been proven to do (thus far, very little). But that part of their website came down when a group of clinic operators threatened them with an expensive lawsuit, far beyond the budget capabilities of the scientific nonprofit organization.
Just a small comment about what happens when commercial interests take over medical care...