Paul Offit responds to denialism.com

As a result of my e-mailing the link to a mailing list I belong to asking members whether they thought it was outside the pale, Dr. Offit became aware of Mark’s blog post about denialism in the Wall Street Journal editorial page that I castigated for its casually lumping Paul Offit’s editorial on the Michael Moore movie Sicko in as an example of how the WSJ editorial page was a “clearinghouse for denialism.” Moreover, Dr. Offit actually responded. I suggested that he post his response to Mark’s blog as a comment, but instead he gave me his permission to post his e-mailed response on my blog, and here it is:

I’ll try to respond to Mark’s comments about my editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

I certainly agree that Michael Moore’s editorial focused on whether insurance companies were the best way to dole out health care. I chose not to comment on that because many others have, including a couple of editorials in the WSJ, NYT, and elsewhere. I was commenting on what I felt was an off-hand dissing of pharmaceutical companies without any real explanation of what the real problems are. Although one could argue that the solution to insurance companies managing health care is that the government take over, what exactly is the alternative for pharmaceutical companies.

I think, as I said in my editorial, that it is very easy to vilify pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists as a short-hand for changes one would like to see in the industry without ever really getting to what the problems are. Moore does exactly that. He shows the company logos, talks of how Cubans pay pennies a dose for drugs for which we pay hundreds of dollars, and talks about how companies just “dope up” Americans dissatisfied with their lives. This is a shameful misrepresentation and misses the point.

Moore is the most popular documentary filmmaker in history. His last movie grossed more than $200 million. He has the attention of the American public. And he blows it. As someone who works in the healthcare system, and who sees the problems, it was hard to watch this. And as someone who worked the last 25 years with a company making a vaccine the strains for which were generated in our laboratory, I saw a side of these company’s that few people get to see. I was in a way imbedded in the company. I just wanted people to see something that the media never sees or never chooses to see.

I was surpised to find that Mark was so angry with me, choosing to say that I probably haven’t even seen the movie. I wouldn’t have written about something I haven’t seen.

I’ve never really blogged before (as this rambling piece probably indicates). Probably because I’m not very good at it and don’t handle people being angry with me very well (I never respond to the hate mail that I get from the anti-vaccine groups). But since I feel that we are on the same side here, I thought I should say something.