Though healthcare has been a contentious issue in politics over the past few years, little attention has been paid to one of the most questionable and potentially detrimental aspects of the industry: pharmaceutical lobbying. This month’s EcoSalon Film Screening tackles the issue with Holly Mosher’s Money Talk: Profits Before Patient Safety. Join Green Lifestyle Film Festival and Holly Mosher April 28 at The Microsoft Store for our screening and Q&A to get informed on how to protect yourself and help change the system.
GL: Tell me about Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety.
HM: Money Talks is a film that is packed with good information that you should know before you take your next pill. What is missing in the health care debate is how drug companies are putting your and your family’s safety at risk in order to make more money. We get leading experts in the field to talk about how there has been a shift away from putting patients first ever since the 80’s. It’s been a slow degradation, that has now put us in a lot of danger.
GL: Why do you think drug companies are allowed to continue their lobbying?
HM: Any company can lobby, so nobody could stop the pharmaceutical companies from lobbying unless they stopped all industries from lobbying. At the time we made the film, the pharmaceutical industry was actually the largest lobbying group of any out there. It shocks most people to hear that, but then again, they were also the most profitable industry at the time as well. And just think of all the money they spend (our money – through the high cost of drugs) on those television advertisements they play incessantly. Only the US and New Zealand even allow drug ads on television. That is one thing we could work on stopping.
GL: How can patients best protect themselves from being taken advantage of by drug companies?
HM: I think the best way people can protect themselves is through getting educated about how the system works. They like to manipulate people by fear. For example, I just heard ads that they believe (whoever was paying for the ad) that everyone should now be getting the flu vaccine. That makes no sense to me whatsoever. People are not dying from the flu unless they are elderly or suffering from another illness. This to me just seems like a money making scheme. And before that they had a story about two people in China having the bird flu and dying. The bird flu is actually very hard for people to get. So they play at our basest fears to push drugs on people.
GL: Why did you decide to pursue this topic for a documentary?
HM: We made this film after making a romantic comedy called Side Effects, starring Katherine Heigl. We wanted to make bonus material for that film for the DVD, so that we could educate people about what was going on. The writer/director of Side Effects had been a pharmaceutical sales rep for 10 years, so she knew the inside story.
GL: What do you think is the most important thing people can take from this film?
HM: I would say to know that even the information your doctor is getting these days is tainted by the pharmaceutical industry. They control the drug tests and all the information coming out of them. Sometimes doctors doing the research don’t get to see their own data. And then all the patient websites that seem to be from concerned citizens, you need to look who is behind those. I heard that 90 percent of those are actually funded by the industry, but it is all hidden.
I also encourage people to take their health into their own hands and really keep a healthcare journal, so that when you or someone in your family does get sick, you are really clear on when it started, what were the symptoms. Then if you do take any medication, you can also really track if there are side effects from the medicine. My mother-in-law was on several medications that were causing strange side effects like a dry cough and another one gave her a sore wrist. Within a month of going off of each, they cleared up. It was obvious that it came from medicine because we were clear on how they started after the medication was started. When you’re feeling a little something, it’s so easy to forget when, what or the intensity, because it can change or start to feel normal to you.
GL: What effect do you think the recent changes on the healthcare system will have on this process?
HM: Well unfortunately, I don’t think there will be much of an effect at all. That dialogue was all about healthcare and insurance and not about the pharmaceutical industry at all, as far as I’ve heard. I mean, look at Medicare Part D that passed 10 years ago now. That was a gift to the pharmaceutical industry so that the government wasn’t able to get a competitive drug discount. That is crazy, when they buy so much, that they don’t get a lower price. Even the City of Los Angeles was able to get competitive drug pricing for people that live in LA.
GL: What do you think is the solution for doctors to be able to have access to necessary medicines without being bombarded by drug companies?
HM: I think we’d need the research to be done by the universities again and not in the for-profit system and I think we’d need to tighten the FDA rules. We should get rid of drug ads on TV, which really influence patients and drug consumers. There also needs to be a list of what doctors or researchers are on whose payroll, and clearly listing their conflicts of interest.