viernes, 20 de marzo de 2020

Cinema Paradiso: Drug Reps in film

To my knowledge there are only two feature (versus documentaries) that have a pharmaceutical salesperson, or “drug rep” as the central character. 
These films are "Off - Label" , an independent film from 2005, and "Love and Other Drugs", released by a major studio in 2010. Both films present intriguing portraits of the professional and personal lives of drug reps and,depending on one’s taste, are fairly entertaining.

Both films ultimately present the moral quandaries that arise when working within the pharmaceutical industry, spiced up with the subplot of a ‘rep meets love interest who helps them see their way out of the business’. Yet, as a former drug rep myself (Pfizer, Inc., 1989 to 1998) turned medical anthropologist, I was drawn to how the movies chose to present the “culture” of pharmaceutical sales (Oldani, 2002), and in particular, how these films shed lighton the marketing of prescription drugs used for the treatment of mental health disorders.

 The scenes of both movies, when watched with a critical eye, allow one to examine the day-to-day sales and marketing of prescription drugs, and to assess how seemingly trivial and comic activities remain serious business for the industry with serious consequences for patient care. If one subscribes to the notion that the “epidemic of mental illness” is in large part due to the sales and marketinge efforts of the pharmaceutical industry, known in scholarly circlesas “disease mongering” (Moynihan and Cassels, 2005, Moynihan and Henry, 2006), then "Side Effects" and "Love and Other Drugs" provide important visual narratives that call forth scrutiny. Most importantly, we can come to appreciate how the ever-expanding “psychopharmaceutical industrial complex” (Levine, 2008) begins at a very local level, at the level of the drug rep.

Scripting the Drug Rep

Arguably, both films effectively capture the world of the drug rep because they are autobiographical in nature.

Side Effects , was written and directed by Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, who worked for a decade for Bristol-Meyers-Squibb and Johnson & Johnson and has produced documentary  films as well. 

Side Effects was alow-budget, independent film that was critically acclaimed using a “mocumentary” style that at times inserts commentary and criticism of the industry into the flow of the movie. The film stars Kathryn Heigl as the drug rep “Karly Hert” before she became “Katherine Heigl” the movie star (when she was just emerging asa regular character on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy).

Ver también
Cinema Paradiso: Side Effects (2005) / Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau

Love and Other Drugs (2010) was written by the ex-Pfizer and Lilly rep, Jamie Reidy and the script was based in part on his 2005 book, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman . Love and Other Drugs was a big-budget film with “star power” casting Jake Gyllenhaal as the Pfizer rep “Jamie” and Anne Hathaway as “Maggie,” his lover: the film focuses heavily on their relationship.

Ver también:
Ratón de biblioteca: "Hard Sell: The evolution of a Viagra Salesman"

On the surface, Love and Other Drugs appears less critical of BigPharma. In fact, the producers took full license to incorporate all things Pfizer into the movie – from the corporate logo to the products themselves (e.g., Viagra and Zoloft). This also says something about the content of the movie – Love and Other Drugs represents being a male drug rep in the most positive light: cool, fun, and sexy. At its worst, it shows being a drug rep means dealing with managerial and corporate pressure to sell more drugs.

Pfizer, per se , is never put under any kind of ethical microscope. Instead, reps are having “PJ Parties” during the early days of Viagra’s market introduction, where the only “side effect” occurs when Jamie uses Viagra recreationally (i.e., ingesting “Vitamin V”) that results in “priapism.” This is an all night erection that develops after Jamie has a ménage à trois with another drug rep and her friend. Priapism, although extremely painful (and treatable), is presented here as comic relief. There is no mention of more common side effects with Viagra, such as vision impairment, or dangerous drug interactions with medications that treat heart disorders. (Más)

Ver también: 

Obvian los autores otro film del mismo título "Side effects" en el que quizás la presencia del "medical rep" no tiene un papel relevante, tan protagónico pero si una relación clara y manifiesta con la industria farmacéutica y también ya comentado en PHARMACOSERÍAS


Cinema Paradiso: ‘Side Effects’ (Efectos secundarios) / Steve Soderbergh

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