Saturday, September 04, 2010

Miller's Death Brings More Mystery

An avid reader of this blog brought to my attention a letter to the editor uploaded to the Indianapolis Business Journal's website on August 28, 2010. An IBJ reader wrote to the editor to complain about a recent story the business newspaper carried about the failure of museums along Indianapolis' downtown canal to attract sufficient foot traffic. A letter that would otherwise be of little significance intrigued the reader because the person who submitted the letter is Joseph F. Miller, who reportedly took his own life on August 26, 2010 at his downtown condominium on West Michigan Street near the canal, two days before the letter was published in the IBJ. The IBJ has not carried a story on Miller's death as of this writing. Miller, who was 59 at the time of his death, was described in his obituary as "a successful entrepreneur and active philanthropist," which appeared in the Friday, September 3 edition of the Star, more than a week after his death. Miller wrote to criticize the way the IBJ had presented the story on the museums' failure to attrack visitors to the canal:

I was puzzled about the way this topic was presented. Clearly the four cultural attractions mentioned are the gems of the canal, with each one bringing people specifically to their building to see their exhibits and experience their programs.

As someone who is often on the canal running, walking or on my Segway, I agree with the Indiana Historical Society’s CEO, John Herbst, when he observes that many canal users, especially at this time of year, are there for physical exercise—and a museum visit is not part of their plan while jogging or walking.

It seems to me that it is not the responsibility of the canal district cultural attractions—nor within their capabilities—to try to create the ambience that San Antonio’s canal provides (which is much more akin to what Massachusetts Avenue has achieved here in Indianapolis).
Although he was a very successful businessman, the manner in which he achieved his success--the manufacture and distribution of amyl nitrates as a recreational inhalant drug--often attracted criticism of him and drew the scrutiny of federal regulators. His most vocal critic was Hank Wilson, an HIV/AIDS gay activist. Wilson co-authored a book, DEATH RUSH: Poppers & AIDS in 1986 in which he took direct aim at Miller's Great Lakes Products, considered to be the largest manufacturer and distributor of poppers  in the world, which was based in Indianapolis before the business seemed to abruptly close at the same time as Miller's death by suicide first became publicly known. In 2004, Wilson as head of the Committee to Monitor Poppers/SURVIVE AIDS wrote to the FDA to urge a crackdown on the distribution of poppers in this country, which he insisted have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and have had a devastating and deadly impact on the health of people who use poppers, namely gay men. Complaining about the FDA's failure to carry out enforcement action against the manufacturers and distributors of poppers, Wilson, who is now dead, wrote, in an October 14, 2004 letter to the FDA:

Enforcement is overdue. Research accumulates finding amyl nitrite immunosuppressive, and a significant risk factor in unsafe sex, hiv seroconversion, and Kaposi’s Sarcoma.. Prevalence of use is high. The consuming community, both consumers and many doctors, is ignorant of the research, confused by mixed and/or changing messages overtime, and/or misinformed by deceptive advertising by the poppers industry.

The public health impact is costly with every new amyl nitrite fueled HIV infection. Its not just the consumer that pays the price for using amyl nitrite. The public pays for the morbidy and costly care associated with each new hiv infection.

The public health impact justifies an expenditure of resources to enforce the prescription regulation. A time limited, ongoing, or even random publicized enforcement action will have a deterrent as well as education impact on both sellers, consumers, and doctors.

The consuming community needs an update and alert that research about the hazards of using amyl nitrite is accumulating. Doctors too need updating about the accumulating research on the hazards of abusing amyl nitrite. Both consumers and doctors initially focused on amyl nitrite use being a cause of AIDS.

When HIV was discovered, the focus and concern about amyl nitrite/poppers use diminished or disappeared. Subsequent advertising by the poppers industry exonerated poppers use. A gourmet myth has currency among both consumers and doctors that amyl nitrite is “the safe one”, the poppers formulation that is hazard free. The poppers industry ads foster this health endangering belief.

Some amyl nitrite sellers endanger consumers by promoting amyl nitrite and Viagra on the same website. There appears to be no consequence for advertising both poppers and Viagra despite them being a potentially lethal combination. A compelling reason for FDA to reassess its non enforcement of regulating amyl nitrite is the burgeoning sales and use of Viagra and non prescription sales of Viagra. Consumers need the prescription counseling about hazards of using amyl nitrite. Recreational Viagra use has emerged as a significant behavior among males, homosexual and straight.
Although there have been Internet rumors Miller's Indianapolis-based business was raided shortly before his suicide last week, there has been no confirmation of it from government law enforcement officials. It is clear that a number of websites once operated by Miller to promote the sale of poppers went dark near the time of his unexpected death. Others suggest a government shutdown of his popper business had nothing to do with his suicide. According to those sources, federal law enforcement officials are remaining low key about his death as they work to unravel alleged crimes totally unrelated to Miller's popper business. Other than a story that appeared a week ago briefly in the Indianapolis Star before being yanked from the online edition reporting on his suicide earlier that week and the obituary that appeared in yesterday's Star, the news media has remained very quiet about his death. Those who profess to have known him expressed shock and disbelief that he would have taken his own life.

A memorial service and celebration of Joe Miller's life is scheduled at the Indiana Repertory Theater on Tuesday, September 7th at 5:30 p.m. according to his obituary in the Star. The obituary says donations in his memory can be made to The Damien Center of Indianapolis, The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, or The Indiana AIDS Fund. It says final arrangements have been entrusted to Crown Hill Funeral Home.


Advance Indiana said...

A blogger using the alias Andrew37 posted this comment today on an earlier blog posting on this site concerning Miller's death:

"Joe Miller was a dear personal friend. He called, two weeks ago, to let me know that his company, Great Lakes Products, had been raided by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and that he loved me. He sounded emotionally distraught at the time. His suicide was obviously a response to the CPSC raid.

I have read every single CREDIBLE journal article on alkyl nitrite compounds (i.e., open chain nitrite compounds, the type of poppers that are illegal). They are among the safest compounds known to man. Joe knew that and it is why he had no ethical qualms about engaging in that business. It is also why his company, Great Lakes Products, was LICENSED BY THE US GOVERNMENT TO MANUFACTURE AND EXPORT THESE PRODUCTS. The US Government knows that poppers are safe and that's why they allow them to be manufactured for export.

The ban on poppers, as it exists in the US, was enacted as a knee jerk response during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when some misguided junk scientists thought there was a causal relationship between their use and HIV transmission. The same could have been said about water because all gay men at the time were consuming both substances liberally . The law that banned poppers went through Congress unnoticed as part of a big, unrelated omnibus bill and has never been revoked, despite the fact that there is no valid scientific evidence to support that poppers are in any way harmful.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is indirectly responsible for Joe Miller's untimely death. They relentlessly pursued him like pit bulls throughout the decades and finally raided his factory, causing him great emotional distress. They are trying to keep this quiet and are the reason why the details of Joe's suicide were pulled from the papers. Big brother screwed up again and, as a result, one of our dearest and most philanthropic brothers is gone.

The raid on Great Lakes Products was part of a giant, misguided, coordinated, nationwide effort by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to remove poppers from the marketplace. Every business in the US that sold poppers on the internet has been sent a cease and desist order by the CPSC. You won't see poppers on the web sites where they were staples before. You would think that the CPSC would have something better to do (like perhaps protecting our children from faulty toys, which is more aligned with their charter) than to spend millions of our tax dollars ridding the marketplace of substances that have been proven to be harmless. The irony is that the cyclic nitrite compounds that were manufactured to skirt the law, and are now legal, are actually harmful to humans because they remain in the body and are known carcinogens. You would think that the CPSC, operating with full awareness of these facts, would lobby to have straight line nirties made legal and cyclic nitrites made illegal. Does the CPSC care about the health of the US populace, which is ostensibly why they are here in the first place? No. Their sole concern is looking good, and they do so by intentionally and misguidedly focusing their efforts on an illegal product that they know to be safe. How sad is that? The same ego-driven and rewards-driven behavior that drove the CPSC to enforce the ban on known safe products is what led them to cover up Joe's suicide. I know better!!!"

It's interesting if this commenter's post is accurate that it would be the Obama administration to take this action given that Miller was a big supporter of his and the fact that his business activities were largely ignored by both the administrations of Republican George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Marv said...

The gay population by using poppers is engaged in dangerous and self destructive behavior . . . what else is new?

David Crowe said...

The classic book "Death Rush: Poppers and AIDS " is now available freely online:

If only people had been paying more attention. Even now commenters are claiming that poppers are harmless.

Jerry said...

David if you believe that "classic book" is in anyway credible, I have some swamp land to sell you. Alkyl nitrites have been studied for decades and if you do some searching on them you'll find just what blogger "Andrew37" found - that "poppers" are indeed safe unless of course you're a rat being exposed to toxic levels 24 hours a day. Do a simple search at Medscape and you'll find many credible studies/articles on the subject (i.e. Poppers: Epidemiology and Clinical Management of Inhaled Nitrate Abuse Pharmacotherapy , 2004-01-01.) I believe this raid on Pac West was a knee-jerk reaction to Atlanta activist Greg Barrett's death following the combined use of poppers and Levitra. This witch hunt by the CSCP is a huge waste of time and resources and will only lead to underground sales and garage chemists making batches of who knows what.

And I do believe Advance Indiana is following Hank Wilson's anti-popper campaign by wording Joe Miller's business as "the manufacture and distribution of amyl nitrates as a recreational inhalant drug." I would like to be shown where on Pac West's site - which is still cached by Google - states their products are sold as recreational inhalant drugs? In fact I happened to have saved one of Pac West's website pages as a PDF file - I invite you to look at it and read the disclaimer at the bottom.

At any rate, yes, poppers are indeed harmless. And the comment by a reader who said that the gay "population" engages in self-destructive behaviors - must be straight and live in a perfect world because we all know the straight population is pure and innocent.