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Big Bucks, Big Pharma

Marketing Disease & Pushing Drugs

Big Bucks, Big Pharma

Duration: 46 Mins
ISBN: 1-932869-05-0
Date Produced: 2006
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Study Guide
Press Room
Film Festivals
Related Links
Press Reviews
Praise for the Film

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Big Bucks, Big Pharma
Marketing Disease & Pushing Drugs

Big Bucks, Big Pharma pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to expose the insidious ways that illness is used, manipulated, and in some instances created, for capital gain. Focusing on the industry's marketing practices, media scholars and health professionals help viewers understand the ways in which direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription medication, and works in tandem with promotion to doctors. Combined, these industry practices shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to disease and treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges us to ask important questions about the consequences of relying on a for-profit industry for our health and well-being.

Featuring interviews with Dr. Marcia Angell (Dept. of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Former Editor New England Journal of Medicine), Dr. Bob Goodman (Columbia University Medical Center; Founder, No Free Lunch), Gene Carbona (Former Pharmaceutical Industry Insider and Current Executive Director of Sales, The Medical Letter), Katharine Greider (Journalist; Author, The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers), Dr. Elizabeth Preston (Dept. of Communication, Westfield State College), and Dr. Larry Sasich (Public Citizen Health Research Group).

Sections: Introduction | Branding Drugs | Swimming in Pills | Disease Mongering | No Free Lunch | A Healthier Prescription

Filmmaker Info

Producer & Editor: Ronit Ridberg
Writers: Ronit Ridberg, Loretta Alper, Jeremy Earp & Sut Jhally
Executive Producer: Sut Jhally
Associate Producers: Loretta Alper & Jeremy Earp
Narrator: Amy Goodman

Read an in-depth interview with producer Ronit Ridberg on the making of the film

Film Festivals

Official Selection, 2008 Catalysts for Change Film Festival
Official Selection, 2006 Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montreal

No Free Lunch: A non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage health care providers to practice medicine on the basis of scientific evidence rather than on the basis of pharmaceutical promotion.

Public Citizen Health Resource Group: Promotes research-based, system-wide changes in health care policy and provides oversight concerning drugs, medical devices, doctors and hospitals and occupational health.

Consumers International: An independent non-profit organization that works for consumer rights and to hold corporations accountable, specifically in the areas of climate change, unethical drug promotion, sustainable coffee, and consumer protection.

Worst Pills, Best Pills: A searchable, online drug database that provides comprehensive information about 538 prescription drugs and warns of 181 drugs that are unsafe or ineffective. A project of Public Citizen HRG.

The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics: An independent, peer-reviewed, nonprofit publication that offers unbiased critical evaluations of drugs, with special emphasis on new drugs, to physicians and other members of the health professions.

American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Campaign: Aiming to revitalize professionalism in medical education, AMSA teaches medical students about the ethics of drug company interaction with health professionals and encourages them to make the rational, informed decision to eschew "free" gifts from the pharmaceutical industry.

The Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) Project: Works to make prescription drug prices more affordable for consumers, using class action litigation and public education.

Press Reviews

"This doc pops the childproof lid off the bottle that is the pharmaceutical industry, exposing the way it sometimes manipulates sick folks to make a chunk of change for shareholders via better living through chemistry. Once you know the truth, you'll want a Percocet or a Xanax."
- San Diego CityBeat

"Big Bucks, Big Pharma reveals some highly shocking truth about the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry. The concept it presents is often overlooked; that we are relying on profit oriented billionaire pharmaceutical companies to provide us medicines and safeguard our health. ...A very informative film."

"This expose on the consumer marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry was an eye opener. We've all seen ads for drugs proliferate in the last few years. But, until we saw Big Bucks, Big Pharma we never realized the full breadth of the insidious marketing strategies of Big Pharma. Frankly, it kind of takes your breath away."
- BuzzFlash

"This fact-based, fast-paced documentary provides disturbing proof for its assertions, and it will cause most viewers to think about the push for pills that is affecting the economy -- and our well-being."
- The English Journal, listed under Tools for Teaching

Praise for the Film

"As this documentary so clearly and simply shows, we need to become 'healthy skeptics' and be better prepared to face a world where disease is being sold and drug companies are bankrolling the 'education' of the general public through advertising both drugs and diseases."
- Alan Cassels | Drug Policy Researcher at the University of Victoria | Co-author of Selling Sickness

"As an organizer and educator around issues of mental health and Big Pharma, I've found this film to be the BEST tool in my tool chest. It's slick, convincing, credible and engaging. It inevitably generates feisty discussion."
- Angela Bischoff | Greenspiration, Canada

"Drug companies now spend more than $12 billion a year hawking the newest, most expensive brand-name drugs to patients and doctors in the U.S., regardless of whether those drugs are truly needed or any better than what's been available for years. Big Bucks, Big Pharma is an incisive expose of how marketing has infected everything doctors and patients learn about drugs, and a much-needed antidote to the tidal wave of self-serving drug company propaganda that dominates the airwaves. Anyone who ever prescribes or takes a pill should see this documentary."
- Alex Sugerman-Brozan | The PAL Project

"I applaud you and the film Big Bucks, Big Pharma. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 16 years, and nothing in this film surprised me."
- Anyonymous Pharmaceutical Company Employee

"Using excerpts from drug company advertisements as well as news reports on the pharmaceutical industry, the documentary raises important questions and presents options for consumer empowerment... If the United States is ever going to upgrade its healthcare system for all people, it will happen only if an informed public mandates change. Big Bucks, Big Pharma is a bitter pill to swallow but the prognosis is hopeful."
- Thomas P. Healy | Journalist

"This documentary provides important information that addresses concerns regarding the manner in which prescription medications are being promoted to health professionals and to the public. [The interviewees] provide authoritative and insightful perspectives pertaining to the marketing of drugs. Their thought-provoking analyses and observations regarding the excessive and unbalanced marketing of medications challenge health professionals to evaluate their personal objectivity and commitment to be uncompromising in the quality and integrity of the care and services that we provide to patients. All health professionals would learn from viewing this documentary and would benefit from having a more complete understanding of the issues surrounding the marketing of drugs. Health professions organizations and colleges should include this documentary in their meetings and classes."
- Daniel A. Hussar, Ph.D. | Remington Professor of Pharmacy, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy | University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

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