Pharmaceutical Companies Issue Internal Notices About Michael Moore Film on Health Care Industry
At least six drug manufacturers have issued internal alerts about filmmaker Michael Moore's plans to create a film about FDA, health insurers and drug manufacturers, the Los Angeles Times reports (Dutka, Los Angeles Times, 12/22).
The film is tentatively titled "Sicko," according to a Moore spokesperson. Some pharmaceutical companies have told sales representatives to avoid camera cell phones in physician offices. According to one unnamed drug company, Moore representatives have offered $50,000 to physician offices that allow hidden cameras and $5,000 to sales representatives who agree to appear in the film (California Healthline, 9/30).
Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Wyeth "sent out Moore alerts" directing employees to divert questions from the media or filmmakers to corporate communications officials, the Times reports. Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis Pharmaceuticals before their recent merger also sent such internal alerts.
In addition, Merck, Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis and Teva Pharmaceutical have sent "periodic messages about dealing with the press" but have not specifically named Moore in their communications, the Times reports. Johnson & Johnson officials would not comment on the company's communications.
Moore has denied paying physicians to install hidden cameras for the film; however, he said that he has visited hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies -- including two that have not issued internal alerts. Moore acknowledged that it has become increasingly difficult to contact industry executives for interviews, according to the Times.
A six-page outline of the film submitted to various studio officials indicates that it will include "human interest stories" and interviews, the Times reports. The summary also indicates that Moore will discuss members of Congress who are on committees that oversee Medicare, health company mergers and regulatory actions.
Moore has not yet reached an agreement with a film studio, but he has said an announcement is expected early next year. The film is expected to be released in the first six months of 2006 and could be distributed by a "major" studio, rather than a studio's independent division, the Times reports.
Moore said he decided to pursue the film because health care is "a hot button issue with the average American -- the domestic issue of the day." He added, "The [health care] system, inferior to that of much poorer nations, benefits the few at the expense of the many."
Pfizer spokesperson Stephen Lederer said, "We ran a story in our online newspaper saying Moore is embarking on a documentary -- and if you see a scruffy guy in a baseball cap, you'll know who it is."
M.J. Fingland, senior director of communications for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "We have an image problem -- not only with Michael Moore, but with the general public. We're criticized on [Capitol] Hill and in the press -- put in the category of the tobacco industry, even though we save lives."
Rachel Bloom, AstraZeneca executive director of corporate communications, said, "Moore's past work has been marked by negativity, so we can only assume it won't be a fair and balanced portrayal. His movies resemble docudramas more than documentaries" (Los Angeles Times, 12/22).