PhRMA is trying to up their street cred with the newest star pulled into its galaxy: rapper/actor Ice-T.

Honestly, I like Ice-T. As one of the original hip-hoppers and pioneer of gangsta rap, he actuallly had some creativity and intelligence; he's spoken out about war, poor conditions in prison, ghettos, and "good" hip-hop versus "whack" hip-hop. And he's great on Law&Order: SVU.

And I admire that he's trying to reach out to people about high blood pressure (a condition he has) and the risk of heart disease, which is so prevalent in African-Americans.

But I take two issues (well, one issue, one comment) with PhRMA's announcement of Ice-T's appearance on their weekly "Sharing Miracles" show. (For those not in the know: PhRMA stands for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the lobbying/advocacy group for the pharma industry. These guys are big money and a big friggin' deal around Washington.)

First, the comment: the press release is hilarioius. Imagine a bunch of stuffy old white dudes trying to sound hip and cool, and then read the press release, describing Ice-T as one of the most controversial pioneers of rap. A few gems:

"Grammy-winning rapper and award-winning actor Ice-T, known as the 'Original Gangster,' will be the subject of this month’s episode of Sharing Miracles - a 30-minute public affairs television program that tells the compelling and inspirational stories of real patients."

"With his ever-evolving career, Ice-T is known for pushing the envelope. However, as he explains in this month’s episode of Sharing Miracles, he had to learn to tone down his larger-than-life personality when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure."

Images of Karl Rove rapping keep flashing through my head...anyway, great intro, although you probably lost most of the PhRMA audience with 'Original Gangster.'

Now, the issue I have with the press release, which is actually serious, is that it engages in disease mongering - widening the diagnostic boundaries of illnesses, and promoting public awareness of such, in order to expand the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments. High blood pressure is not a disease, it is a condition. High blood pressure does not equal heart disease. Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure may lead to certain morbidities down the road - and you can usually control it without drugs.

This is akin to cancer screening - sure, it can help, but how much is too much, and what about the harms it causes? But does getting out the message of awareness - in this case, monitor your blood pressure - outweigh any downsides?