Big Pharma – How much power do drug companies have? | DW Documentary

The pharmaceutical industry exerts a huge amount of influence on health policy. Some companies develop highly profitable drugs with public money, while others have been found to have covered up serious side effects.

The fight against Covid-19 is further fueling the greed of pharmaceutical companies. Does the industry’s influence threaten public health systems?

The industry has seen major changes in the last decade. Most of the world’s pharmaceuticals are produced by a handful of large corporations, so-called Big Pharma. They’re richer and more powerful than ever. In some cases, they can even call the shots on governmental health policies.

This documentary is the result of more than a year of research, and brings together patients, whistleblowers, lawyers, doctors and politicians, as well as representatives of the industry. Large laboratories are accused of concealing or downplaying research results to maintain their monopolies. Take the manufacturer Sanofi, whose epilepsy drug Depakine triggered a scandal throughout Europe. In the US, Johnson & Johnson has had to stand trial for driving millions of people into opioid addiction. And Novartis is one of several companies now facing huge fines over improper practices in the treatment of macular degeneration, an eye disease.

The pharmaceutical industry gets support from influential doctors. But only one-fifth of German doctors declare what they receive from drug companies. As the world battles the Coronavirus pandemic, this documentary also looks at the lobbying efforts of manufacturer Gilead, as it seeks approval for a promising drug developed largely with public money. Every company is vying to find the next miracle treatment that will help it succeed against the competition.


WHAT WOULD CIORAN SAY?

There is no specific in our pharmacies against existence; nothing but minor remedies for braggarts. But where is the antidote for lucid despair, perfectly articulated, proud, and sure? All of us are miserable, but how many know it? The consciousness of misery is too serious a disease to figure in an arithmetic of agonies or in the catalogues of the Incurable. It belittles the prestige of hell, and converts the slaughterhouses of time into idyls. What sin have you committed to be born, what crime to exist? Your suffering like your fate is without motive. To suffer, truly to suffer, is to accept the invasion of ills without the excuse of causality, as a favor of demented nature, as a negative miracle. . . .

CIORAN, A Short History of Decay (1949)

We would be better off, verminous and serene, if we had kept company with the animals, wallowing beside them for millennia to come, breathing the smell of the stable rather than that of the laboratories, dying of our diseases and not of our remedies, circling round our Void and gradually sinking into it.

CIORAN, The Fall Into Time (1964)

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