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Medicine Politics

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.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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