Earlier this year a crew working for documentary filmmaker Michael Moore "crashed" the major scientific oncology conference in Atlanta. Moore's reportedly working on a movie with the working title of "Sicko" about the country's healthcare system and the pharmaceutical industry. At the conference I heard through the grapevine that the Moore crew got into a GlaxoSmithKline event for doctors, shot attendees schmoozing over cocktails, and approached some of the docs for interviews about being "hosted" by big drug companies.
Fast forward to yesterday at the Pfizer Research and Development Day at the company's R & D headquarters in Groton, CT. Security was tight. One might say even excessive. Reporters were given badges that said "Media" on them to wear around our necks at all times. Nothing unusual there. However, if we walked out of the media room security guards posted right outside the door immediately asked us where we were going and usually assigned an escort to take us there. This is Pfizer's main research campus where presumably there are labs with animals used for testing--a target for animal-rights protesters. In addition, all of the Pfizer top brass were there along with more than 300 Wall Street analysts, money managers and investors. But the level of paranoia was extreme. When my producer, Ruth, and I began walking to a Starbucks kiosk inside the building a security guard badged us, asked us where we were going and told us--and this is a direct quote--"You cannot go to Starbucks alone!" Later in the afternoon, after the meeting was over and most of the analysts had left, I walked to a restroom. Again, a Pfizer employee badged me, asked me where I was going and when I told her I was going to the restroom she turned to a group of her colleagues in the atrium lobby and blurted out--and I can't make this stuff up--"Media going to the bathroom! Needs escort back to press room." When I came out, I blurted out, "Media done going to the bathroom!" Another employee who had been assigned as my new escort complained that I was walking too fast, reminded me that I was an invited guest and said if I did not slow down she would get my name and make sure I am not invited back. The head of corporate security at the campus soonafter apologized profusely.
The interview we'd hoped to get there with the new Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler never happened. First, we were told he would not be doing any TV interviews. Then we were told he would be holding a news conference at the end of the meeting around 4 p.m. But we were told that no cameras would be allowed into the news conference. That's like telling a newspaper reporter they can't bring a tape recorder or a pen and paper to an interview or news conference. We're hopeful to get Kindler's first TV interview at Pfizer's next analyst meeting on January 22nd, if not sooner.
Next week should be a busy one. At an international diabetes conference in Africa GlaxoSmithKline will be presenting new data Monday on a diabetes drug. On Wednesday morning, before the opening bell, Merck is holding a conference call to give new financial guidance. Then on Thursday Lilly is holding its annual analyst meeting in New York City. The company will be putting out a news release--possibly with new financial guidance--early that morning and shortly after that we'll be doing a live interview on "Squawk Box" with CEO Sydney Taurel. Later that day, I'll be taking the shuttle to Washington to cover the two-day FDA Advisory Committee meeting on drug-coated stents. We'll be live from there on Friday when the panel is expected to vote on potentially stock-moving recommendations regarding the stents and the risk of blood clots.
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