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Michael Moore taking on Big Pharma

I heard about this some time ago, around the time he released F9/11. Big Pharma is circling the wagons:

America’s pharmaceutical industry is putting out an advisory about the latest potential threat to its health: Michael Moore.

…At least six of the nation’s largest firms have already issued internal notices to their workforces, preparing them for potential ambushes.

“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,” said Stephen Lederer, a spokesman for Pfizer Global Research and Development.

In September and October, GlaxoSmithKline, the second-largest in retail sales, as well as AstraZeneca and Wyeth, sent out Moore alerts, instructing employees that questions posed by the media or filmmakers should be handled by corporate communications. Heavyweights Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis Pharmaceuticals each sent out similar memos before their recent merger. Merck & Co., Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries send periodic messages about dealing with the press but haven’t singled out Moore by name. Johnson & Johnson declined to comment.

We have an image problem — not only with Michael Moore, but with the general public,” said M.J. Fingland, senior director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We’re criticized on the Hill and in the press — put in the category of the tobacco industry, even though we save lives.”

[Bahahahahaha…I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin…. –P.]

Moore’s past work has been marked by negativity, so we can only assume it won’t be a fair and balanced portrayal,” said Rachel Bloom, executive director of corporate communications for the Wilmington, Del.-based AstraZeneca. “His movies resemble docudramas more than documentaries.”

Tentatively titled “Sicko,” Moore’s film will probably be released in the first half of 2006, sometime between the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. No deal has yet been reached, but an announcement is expected after the new year. There’s interest in the industry, he says, on the part of some of the major studios and not just their specialty divisions.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding