20 June 2007

Big Pharma fires back

The New York Sun has an article up on "Big Pharma Readies Effort To Counter Moore's 'Sicko.'"
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."

...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."

...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."
Big Pharma would do fine under a single-payer system. Their profits would not be the highest of any industry except big oil, as they are now, but they would make a fair profit. Their responsibility to shareholders to maximize profits mean that they need to fight this.

What kind of system mandates that corporations maximize profits, but don't need to be decent neighbors?

Sally Pipes, by the way, wrote a book that alluded to the crisis of U.S. healthcare in its title. However, it turns out that there isn't really much of a crisis at all if you read further. Mostly the crisis is the possibility that we may go the way of Canada, and institute universal healthcare. She writes at Real Clear Politics, a right-leaning round-up of op-eds, that "The fact is, drug costs -- especially with the introduction of the new medicare benefit -- are simply not that big a problem for most U.S. seniors. American households whose heads are over 65 spend $955 U.S. annually on prescription drugs. That's less than they spend on gas and motor oil. All told, American seniors over age 65 spend only three per cent of their incomes on the medications that make their lives better. They spend more on entertainment."

Doesn't sound much like a crisis to me.

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