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Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Pfizer Marketing Vice President providing services as a medical device and drug expert witness and pharmaceutical marketing expert. Judge Sanders: "The court agrees with defendants' view that Dr. Rost is a very adept and seasoned expert witness." He is also the author of Emergency Surgery, The Whistleblower and Killer Drug. You can reach him on rostpeter (insert symbol) Please read the terms of use agreement and privacy policy for this blog carefully.

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.

No kidding.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, this is a good one! Enjoyed it! I can not wait for the rest of the story and, maybe, the movie. As with a lot of things, I draw comparisons, or see themes and similarities in other areas, such as, for example, the Middle East. There, as well, things get done in mob style, such as abducting a schoolboy, promising to butcher him, and then doing it, after which an arm of a government "proudly" takes "credit" for it. Sort of like saying, now, watch out now, do as we say you do, or you will be next. And, you can not touch me. If you do, we convert to poor me, "disenfranchised" "civilians". Sort of like mobsters who parade like repairmen. When my grandchildren were small they had these robotmen like toys, which converted into attackmachines. If we look long and hard enough, and with a little detachment, we can see recurring themes everywhere. What is wrong is that which destroys, twist your arms and kills, overpowers and threatens. What is right is that which is creative, nurturing, healing, joyful, and leaves people to live their lives, in a healthy and joyful way. Money, actually, is nothing if it does not stand for a healthy society, and the paper money and printed balances will lose their value if it does not stand for something healthy, growing, nurturing, loving and creative. Medicine is for healing people, and pharmacology is to support that. If the goals and means are twisted, as in the Middle East, for example as well, something is intrinsically wrong. Maybe an idea for Michael Moore to get started?

Anonymous H said...

Dr. Rost:

Your comparison concept is a good one and brings to mind another movie in which Pfizer made an appearance. Pfizer figured rather prominently in a movie called The Corporation. This movie as you may know compared corporations, with their legal entity status, to psychopaths using a universally accepted checklist of criteria.

After seeing The Corporation, I enjoyed my status as a legacy Pfizer "colleague" even more:)) Mr. Moore should re-consider. And I am sure that Pfizer would appreciate the double dose of publicity; they really seemed to enjoy being front and center in The Corporation.

But alas....Pfizer is now a kindler, gentler company.

Blogger beeta said...

You got me curious. Be sure and post any news you come across.
BTW, you'll be grand in a documantary. Move over Al Gore!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael ought to get the "Yes Men" to work with him. That'd be hilarious.

Anonymous Daniel Haszard said...

Well said, i appreciate your article,i have a victims support page against Eli Lilly for it's Zyprexa product causing my diabetes.
Daniel Haszard


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