Thomas S Osdene

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Thomas Osdene practicing for a courtroom deposition. From the UCSF Tobacco Videos at the Internet Archive

' Tom Osdene -- often known by his initials TSO -- was the legendary head of Philip Morris USA's Science and Technology (S&T) group which specialised in 'managing' scientific issues for the tobacco company, and for the general cigarette industry. He followed in the footsteps of 'Wake' -- Helmut RR Wakeham who, as the long-time director of R&D at the company, had also directed the scientific misinformation and medical coverup operations.

Thomas Stefan Osdene, Ph.D. was a Czech-born, London educated, organic chemist who moved to the USA in 1955, and joined Philip Morris. He later became Research Director for the domestic company, and then Vice President of Science and Technology, created specifically to manage 'Issues'. He is well known to tobacco industry researchers because he meticulously maintained a daily diary which recorded who he met, what he and they said, and what was the general scuttle-butt around the executive groups of the company -- and also the industry associations like CIAR and the Tobacco Institute. He was a major player in the industry's misinformation campaigns.

He retired, but remained an Industry Consultant, and in 1997, during depositions and court hearings, he regularly pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination -- mainly over his handling of systematic document destruction of scientific reports and general papers.

Don't confuse 'Tom' Osdene's with William L Osteen or his later associate/replacement 'Tom' Borelli. {Also a few name spellings are 'Osdeen')

Overview of his career

There are three obvious phases to Tom Osdene's career with Philip Morris.

  • R&D Scientist: At the Richmond Research Laboratories, where he rose to become Research Director on the retirement of Helmut Wakeham
  • Disinformation Specialist: As head of the Science and Technology unit in New York, which ran the domestic company's main scientific disinformation and corruption program (in parallel to similar operations undertaken globally by Andrew Whist's Corporate Affairs unit at Philip Morris International and the later Management Company.
  • Consultant: After retirement as an independent consultant still working for the company from his home office.

Documents & Timeline

This overview of his life and study is pieced together from various puff pieces in the tobacco documents.

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, but educated in London

1951 BSc Special Chemistry degree Uni of London: "A former student of Imperial College, London Uni (Birbeck College)' - He claims to have a first class honours degree. [Document date: 19720906] [2]

1955 PhD in Organic Chemistry from Uni of London. (One document also claimed that "Osdene and [UK BAT scientist DGI (Geoff)] Felton were old friends. They had worked together before 1968 at the Chester Beaty Research Institute" Osdene then moved to USA for post-doctoral studies at Princeton. (dubious)

1956-58 On staff of the Tumor Institute,at the Uni of Texas, and taught briefly a Baylor College.

1959 joined the Wyeth Laboratory divison of American Home Products Corp.

1965 He joined Philip Morris as Manager of their Chemical Research Division at Richmond, outside New York. He worked in this division from 1965-1966.

1966-69 He was in the Chemical and Biological Research Division

1966 Dec 21 Meeting between Philip Morris (Dr Morton Comer and Peter Luchsinger) and FDRL's Steve Carson and Richard Goldhamer to discuss the 1967 contract agreement. A $1000 a month minimum was established. They will work under Tom Osdene who has just been appointed (by Helmut Wakeham) Manager of Chemical and Biological Research , with Robert Carpenter under him as project leader for biological research. They will visit FDRL on Jan 16 to discuss the work. Research on cats has been undertaken. [3]

1967 Mar 30 Memo from Helmut Wakeham to Osdene and Carpenter. He had had a conversation with compliant biomedical resarcher Freddy Homberger re the research of Walter Dontenwill ar the German Verband and Ernst Wynder at the American Health Foundation, which carried the implication that nitrosoamine was a cancer initiator in hamsters.. Mentions theat Bio-Research are doing chronic exposure tests with hamsters - 5 secs of smoke 3 times a day (sponsored by CTR) He remarks that "This sounds more and more like what we are doing at INBIFO" [4]

[Philip Morris had secretly purchased the German research laboratory INBIFO to carry out animal and other research into smoking and health that they couldn't afford to do in the US (in case of court discovery of documents proving they knew about the harm from cigarettes).
Walter Dontenwill was head of the German tobacco industry's Verband der Cigarettenindustrie Research Institute (aka Verband) while Ernst Wynder ran the American Health Foundation and was convinced he could produce a 'safer cigarette' ]

1967 Oct 12 Memo from Osdene to Helmut Wakeham giving details of a meeting in New York of the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR). The CTR Research Director, Robert Hockett, has outlined their activities and intentions.He intends to do biological testing with animals but he "has reservations on lung cancer in the human and correlation with skin-paining controversy, and is not interested in skin per se.

It was the skin-painting experiments of Ernst Wynder using smoke condensates which had implicated smoking as a probably cause of lung cancer in the first place.]

They were concentrating on three smoke-breathing studies using systems designed by Arthur Furst in San Francisco.

  • Machines being compare at the Mason Institute; tests to see how long mice survive before dying of nicotine.
  • Dr Freddy Homberger at Bio-Resarch Lab. in Boston
  • Cecile and Rudolf Leuchtenberger in Switzerland (also studying possible viral infections

Also possibility of Batelle Northwest laboratories by Bair who was working for the AEC using inhalation experiments on dogs which "appear to be an excellent experimental animal" (They didn't think so later when the studies of Auerbach produced lung tumours in their Beagle dogs) They had to condition the dogs to become less sensitive to nicotine (otherwise the nicotine kills them)

[Note the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) was interested in the possibility that smoking transfered radioactive materials (carbon-14) to lungs, etc.]

Janet Brown raise the possible legal implications if grant are discolsed to the industry technical committee. (They maintain the myth that research is totally under the control of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) rather than the lawyers.) [5]

1969-84 Now the Director of Research. Osdene reported to the Vice President of Operations. He coauthored a paper which showed that there were lung changes in smokers. (which he later forgot?) p117 (Type-in Bates Number) 681879254

1980 PM USA Director of Research and Extramural Studies

1982 Apr Philip Morris (PM) Chief Executive Officer Hugh Cullman asked Thomas Osdene (then Director of PM's research department) to investigate the biological effects of smokeless tobacco, and report back. After researching the literature regarding smokeless tobacco, Osdene wrote back to Cullman (in the cover memo for this report) saying, "I believe the correlation between use of [smokeless tobacco] and oral cancer is quite strong..." [1]

The body of the report states,

Retrospective surveys have implicated snuff as a major risk factor in oral cancer particularly in females. The geographic distribution of this cancer correlates directly with geographical areas of widespread snuff use. The most conclusive studies have shown that approximately 90% of the women in the rural Southeastern United States who develop cancers of the buccal mucosa are snuff users."

  • Histopathological studies have shown that snuff use is associated with a distinctive verrucose squamous carcinoma of the buccal cavity.

The memo reveals that Thomas Osdene, and the CEO of Philip Morris, knew in 1982 the extent of the carcinogenic threat chewing tobacco posed to users. (The company did not manufacture chewing tobacco at that time.) They also were aware that nicotine-dependent people commonly used chewing tobacco as a substitute for smoking.[6] [2]

1983 July 13 -19 Jet Lincoln (Planning Aide to Joe Cullman, Chm of PM) has written to Hugh Cullman (CEO of PM International) advocating a study to 'parallel' [and therefore counter] the American Cancer Society's new prospective study on smoking and premature mortality, which has been recruiting a million men since September 1982.

Jet Lincoln doesn't trust the Council for Tobacco Research and Sheldon C Sommers ("Charlie" - then CTR SAB Chairman and pathologist) to run this counter-study. He wants Philip Morris to do it.

My thought is to parallel the new ACS study, including all or at least most of their questionnaire, but adding to it additional questions we believe have a predictive value for premature mortality, including questions as close as we can come to the Vaillant [Note: a Dec ;79 smoking/health study published in the NEJM] and Caroline B Thomas [Johns Hopkins Uni] discriminators. [7] [8]

By having our own study, we will be able to look at cross tabulations of their questions that they either do not run, or do not choose to publish, and also to fold the responses to our added questions into the overall analysis.

The cost of an exact replication would be rather high since millions of personal interviews are involved. One way to hold down the cost would be to use Home Testing Institute and aim for a final sample of 100,000 instead of a million. I believe our smaller sample would still yield statistically sound figures with regard to total mortality.

The main thing we would lose would be the ability to publish separate statistics for the mortality from minor causes of disease. For your information, I am attaching a copy of the new ACS questionnaire . It has some questions in it that may help us.

On the other hand, they will probably be more careful to control the alcohol usage and this is very likely to make us look worse. Additionally, it seems highly probable to me that most of the individuals who have the greatest will to live long lives have abandoned smoking. [9]

[See questionairre from the same file] [10]

[Note: Cullman must have passed this research proposal on to Shep Pollack the President of the domestic PM USA company, who then sent it on to Thomas Osdene [PM's chief science-advisory executive] [11]

Osdene then replies:

I am very much in favor of this study recognizing that it would be rather expensive; nevertheless, it would be a very good way of checking the American Cancer Association's results. [Note: the term 'checking' is ambiguous -- it can mean 'countering' or 'confirming.']

Implicit in this, one must consider that the future results may have to be protected [meaning 'shielded from legal discover'] and therefore I would suggest if this study were to be undertaken, it would be under the control of our legal advisors. Technically, it would be very worthwhile.

I would strongly advise against sponsoring this through the CTR and believe that, for example, Dr. Wynder (AHF) or Dr. Carl Seltzer (Harvard) might be able to do this. It must be noted that if the number to be surveyed is in the order of 100,000 people the study would have to be conducted two to three times as long as the 1,000,000 subject study of the American Cancer Association. [12]
[Note: While the life-long systematic corruption of Carl Seltzer is easily demonstrated, the surreptitious involvement of Dr Ernest Wynder of the American Health Foundation has often been disputed. Wynder's involvement may have been more closely concealed because of his earlier reputation in discovering the cigarette/lung-cancer links as a student, and also for his vocal support of 'safer cigarette' research. And many members and funders of his AHF would also have counted themselves as zealous anti-smokers, not given to compromise.
However this correspondence suggests (but does not prove) that by 1983 Wynder had become so dependant on the tobacco industry funding (and ameniable to their demands) that he could be trusted to conceal adverse findings.]

1984 Director of Science & Technology. He is reporting to Mark A Serrano in New York, which shows that Osdene had now switched from actual research to Issues Management. Serrano was at the middle-management level dealing with Smoking & Health Issues.
Osdene also held an independent position in 1984 as Director of Smoking and Extramural Research (running the company's secret operations). He reported to the Vice President of Operations. Osdene admitted to William Anthony Farone that he was addicted to cigarettes (a term never admitted in tobacco companies).

1985 Osdene was a member of the environmental tobacco smoke Advisory Group coordinated by the legal firm Shook Hardy & Bacon circa 1985.

1986 In addition to his PM Issues work, Osdene is now President of the Scientific Commission of CORESTA ('Centre de Cooperation pour les Recherches Scientifiques Relatives au Tabac). This is a global collaboration of tobacco scientists which meets biannually. It has a subsidiary TCRC - Tobacco Chemists Research Conference.

1986 He is listed now as Director of Science and Technology at Philip Morris. He also held an independent position as Director of Smoking and Extramural Research. This was not legitimate research, but a position which was dedicated to the spread of disinformation, and the confusion of adverse health findings to do with smoking.

Osdene attended the INFOTAB/NMA Workshop in Brussels, Belgium in 1986.

1987 June He attended Philip Morris's Operation Downunder Conference in June, 1987. This was the brainstorming conference set up by R William Murray in an attempt to find idea that would enable Philip Morris to take control of the public opinion, and scientific disinformation programs away from the Tobacco Institute. Murray wanted Philip Morris to be more aggressive and unethical than even the Tobacco Institute, and this think- and talk-fest was an attempt to create a new industry approach that the company would lead.

1988 Osdene was involved with Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR) which was set up to give the tobacco industry a superficial appearance of encouraging research. He worked on several environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) projects.

[Note: He pled the 5th amendment over a hundred times during testimony in the Minnesota trial. ]


1992 Retired but remained a contractor.

2001 Sep 24 Osdene repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to respond to virtually every question put to him in a September, 24, 2001 trial.[3]

CEO Geoffrey Bible's deposition says that Osdene took the fifth amendment on INBIFO research, and on the reason for dummy mailing addresses (Hausermann also). He says that a handwritten note shows that Osdene destroying faxes and telexes before the Minnesota trial p36/9


  1. Biological Effects of Smokeless Tobacco Products] Memo. April 8, 1982. Bates No. 2001207640
  2. J. John, Philip Morris Biological Effects of Smokeless Tobacco Products] Memo, scientific report. April 8, 1982. 10 pp. Bates No. 2001207641/7650
  3. Trial testimony of Thomas Stefan Osdene, Ph.D., September 24, 2001, In Re: Tobacco Litigation (Medical Monitoring Cases) -Blankenship Trial testimony/transcript. September 24, 2001

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