BIG BUCKS, BIG PHARMA: MARKETING DISEASE & PUSHING DRUGS Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Feeling under the weather lately? That's nothing compared to how you'll feel after watching this blood-pressure-raising exposé of the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry and its manipulation of you and your doctor.
It's hard to watch TV or leaf through a magazine these days without seeing bucolic images of attractive, healthy models shilling name-brand drugs like Paxil, Lipitor and Viagra.
Those ads are called direct-to-consumer spots, and they've increased by 500 per cent in eight years. They're so prevalent - and persuasive - that many doctors report patients coming into their offices requesting specific items even though they don't know what they're for. (An example? The woman who asked for the male impotence drug Cialis because she liked the ads.)
Faced with limited new products and expiring patents, drug companies have taken to repackaging their old drugs as lifestyle panaceas under new labels. The antidepressant Paxil, we're told, was marketed as a cure-all for shyness and other social anxieties. Thanks to the drug company's PR machine, the media soon adopted the term "social anxiety disorder."
Patients aren't the only ones overdosing on unnecessary and expensive pills. Doctors, courted by sales reps, receive free products and samples (not to mention trips, dinners and golf rounds), making it that much easier to get drugs into the patients' hands.
In the U.S., drug company lobbyists are powerful people, with friends in Congress and the Food and Drug Administration.
This 45-minute documentary isn't great art - it's a talking-heads affair soberly narrated by Amy Goodman. But the experts - doctors, journalists and one former sales rep for pharma giant Merck - deliver information in a straightforward manner. The third section gives tips on how to find doctors who are unsullied by the drug pushers.
Big Bucks, Big Pharma screens tonight and tomorrow (September 21 and 22) at the Bloor. Both screenings are introduced by Dr. Nancy Olivieri, the U of T professor who took on the drug company Apotex in the 1990s.