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Big Pharma Enters the Movie Business

Those of us who litigate prescription drug cases have always known that the advertizing done by drug companies borders on the fictional, especially in light of the limited oversight that the resource strapped FDA can muster. But now Glaxo, the maker of the over-the-counter fat-blocking drug Alli, has entered into negotiations with the non-profit group Creative Coalition to finance and produce a hard hitting documentary about eating, ostensibly to educate Americans about the causes and dangers of obesity.

The New York Times today reports that a Glaxo Marketing executive said that the pharma giant would enter into a contract giving the filmmakers full creative control over the venture, and leave any decisions as to the importance of Glaxos diet drug Alli to the director and film maker. The filmmakers can make a decision about whether Alli is important, she said. We want it to be entirely transparent; we want it to have integrity. Its a fantastic outcome if people are simply more educated.

Were not convinced. Neither apparently are others in the documentary film world. Im skeptical that this wont be an infomercial disguised as an independent documentary, said Theodore Braun, the director of the 2007 film Darfur Now and an associate professor at the University of Southern Californias School of Cinematic Arts. I cant imagine that a company as legally and rhetorically sophisticated as GlaxoSmithKline is going to leave its interests unprotected.

Neither can we.