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Big Pharma Readies Effort To Counter Moore's 'Sicko'


By Elizabeth Solomont
The New York Sun
June 20, 2007


The pharmaceutical industry and think tanks it backs financially are
readying a multifaceted counteroffensive against Michael Moore's
film about the health care industry.

"Sicko" won't hit theaters nationwide until June 29, but free-market
think tanks and the drug companies are already mobilizing to try to
refute its arguments against a single-payer, government-sponsored
health care system.

"It definitely has to be rebutted," the director of the Pacific
Research Institute, Sally Pipes, said. "I think all of us want to
let Americans know that this isn't the solution to the health care
crisis in the U.S."

After being pirated on YouTube this past weekend, "Sicko" will open
Friday on a single screen at Loews Lincoln Square theater in New
York City, the New York Times reported yesterday. The movie is
scheduled for wider release later this month following select
screenings in several cities and at the Cannes Film Festival.

Already, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry have come
out against the film. In a statement issued last week, the senior
vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America, Ken Johnson, called Mr. Moore's film a "biased, one-sided attack."

"Michael Moore is a very talented filmmaker, but a review of
America's health care system should be balanced, thoughtful and
well-researched to pin down what works and what needs to be
improved," he said. "Unfortunately, you won't get that from Michael Moore."

The drug companies and their allies have been on their toes ever
since the movie was being filmed, when they warned personnel to
watch out for film crews from the "Fahrenheit 9/11" director. But in
advance of the film's release, they are upping the volume and the
tempo of their activities.

"If you're in the policy business, your job is to find these
teachable moments," the Cato Institute's director of health policy
studies, Michael Cannon, said.

Cato has scheduled a breakfast symposium on Capitol Hill tomorrow
featuring clips from "Sicko" and other movies documenting the health
care industry. The event is expected to draw 170 guests, including
congressional staffers. The "robust" turnout forced a change of
venue three times to accommodate a growing list of attendees, Mr.
Cannon said. "It's a nice problem to have," he said.

Cato scholars began last year writing Web log entries and op-eds on
Mr. Moore's film, as well as posting pod casts to the Institute's Web site.

According to SourceWatch, a left-leaning group that tracks groups
shaping public policy, several organizations staging responses to
"Sicko" receive funding from pharmaceutical companies, including the
Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Pacific Research Institute.

Earlier this week, the Manhattan Institute issued a press release
advising reporters covering "Sicko" of four scholars at the
institute's Center for Medical Progress who were available to
comment on the health care industry. And yesterday, the advocacy
group Health Care America, whose Web site says it is funded in part
by pharmaceutical manufacturers, staged a conference call that drew
nearly 20 reporters from around the country, including
correspondents from the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, organizers said.

"The purpose of the call was to discuss what Michael Moore left out
of his movie," the group's executive director, Sarah Berk, said.
"We're launching an educational effort to educate the public and the
media and lawmakers about the realities of single-payer health care
systems around the world."

The president of the Galen Institute, Grace-Marie Turner, who spoke
to reporters during the call, said later that "I don't know how good
he is a filmmaker, but he certainly is a master of hype."

Last week, her organization held a symposium on single-payer health
care, the timing of which Mrs. Turner described as coincidental to
the impending release of Mr. Moore's film.

Not that the release hasn't advanced her cause.
"It's created a buzz and what we're doing is trying to use the
opportunity to get out what it's like to live under a single-payer
system," she said.

 

 

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