Ideas for Michael Moore's Film Sicko
Most of you know that Michael Moore has been working on a movie called "Sicko," about the healthcare industry. There are even rumors that some drug companies have sent letters warning their employees not to talk to overweight middle-aged tall men with an unkempt appearance wearing a baseball hat.
Since I don't work for the industry anymore, I haven't received any of those warnings.
Instead, earlier this spring, the Michael Moore team contacted me about the movie.
It appeared as if they were struggling a bit. Not because they'd been locked out of medical conventions, but because this is a big area and it is a bit difficult to make fun of a subject where people's life are at stake. Not that that has ever stopped Michael Moore in the past.
So they asked if I wanted to participate in the movie, and I said yes. Then they asked for my ideas.
I thought about it, and then suggested if they wanted to have fun with the subject they should make a comparison between the drug industry and organized crime.
Let me explain.
Both businesses make a lot of money. Bit Pharma makes about $500 billion. Big Mob makes billions.
Both businesses give to charity. Big Pharma donates millions of dollars of drugs and gives away free samples. Big Mob puts on fireworks and New Year celebrations and supports widows and orphans in the Bronx.
Both businesses have left a trail of dead people. When Big Pharma makes a "mistake" you get mass death. David Graham from the FDA claims that Vioxx alone has killed about 60,000 patients. Big Mob has killed thousands.
Both businesses grease the palm of politicians. Big Pharma spends over $100 million on lobbying activities to stop lower drug prices, according to the Center for Public Integrity. There are 1,274 registered pharmaceutical lobbyists in Washington, D.C. And Big Mob, well, we don't really know. But we do know that Big Pharma's old friend, former police commissioner in New York, happened to get some money from some sources connected with garbage collection, or similar.
Both businesses live by "omerta." The code of silence. That means if you speak up against Big Pharma you are financially dead. They never let you work again. Big Mob does the same thing, only a bit faster. They put a bullet in your head if you talk. For those who speak up against Big Mob there are witness protection programs, for those who speak up against Big Pharma there are big bridges to live under when money runs out.
And both businesses employ the finest lawyers money can buy. That's the reason it was so hard to convict the Teflon Don. The Big Pharma Dons are no different. But in spite of that, many members of mob organizations end up in jail sooner or later. And most Big Pharma companies have been forced to sign corporate integrity agreements, or paid hundreds of millions in civil and criminal fines.
And THAT's how you really recognized a criminal. Both Big Pharma and Big Mob have literally done time or paid the fines. No excuses left.
So that's what I thought Michael Moore should do. And they were pretty enthusiastic. But then I didn't hear anything for a while, and then I was told they were struggling some more with the movie.
Then, in July, Michael wrote on his home page a letter to readers, and said, among other things:
But like my other movies, what we start with (General Motors, guns, 9/11) is not always what we end with. Along the way, we discover new roads to go down, roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas -- and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with. That, I can say with certainty, is happening now as we shoot "Sicko." I don't think the country needs a movie that tells you that HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies suck. Everybody knows that. I'd like to show you some things you don't know. So stay tuned for where this movie has led me. I think you might enjoy it.
After the letter my contact person at Michael Moore left.
So, now I am really curious about what's going to happen with that movie, because the last I heard was that it was taking an entirely new direction.
And the latest I've read is this, in August, "Moore still seems to be struggling a bit with the film -- after all, he says, "everyone knows that health care is a mess in this country."
As for me, I'm still waiting for Michael's call to appear in the movie. He had suggested we do a walk and talk interview, strolling down a street in New York's Little Italy.