Neuron Culture

From the Never Thought You’d See This Department comes the one-person play Big Pharma, in which writer-director-actor Jennifer Berry apparently skewers said industry. How many plays get reviewed by both the LA Weekly and PLOS Biology? At least one.

As the PLOS Biology review notes,

Anyone who has experienced the assault of the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing campaigns would appreciate Jennifer Berry’s one-person play Big Pharma: The Rise of the Anti-Depressant Drug Industry and the Loss of a Generation. Since the mid-1990s, spending on drug promotion has grown steadily, reaching $21 billion in 2002. Berry explores the fallout of this expanded marketing blitz through the eyes of its masterminds, unwitting (and complicit) abettors, and victims through her portrayal of an advertising executive, a physician, and women and children who are prescribed heavily marketed antidepressants.

A primary target of the pharmaceutical industry, physicians receive not just advertising materials but office visits from drug representatives. Berry’s physician, depicted as a pawn of the pharmaceutical industry, gratefully accepts the free drug samples, the free lunches, and the pharmaceutical industry?sponsored trips to tropical islands. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry woos physicians with educational dinners, honoraria for participating in conference calls, consulting fees for participating in speakers’ bureaus, research funding, and payments to write scientific publications. And physicians act as agents of the pharmaceutical industry in many ways, such as giving talks that favor a company’s product, participating in clinical trials that increase physicians’ exposure to a new drugs or new indications for old drugs, and publishing research articles that are financed and, in fact, written by pharmaceutical company employees [1].

It’s an ugly picture, and despite all the attention it’s received, most Americans are unaware how deeply American medicine is influenced by Big Pharma’s marketing efforts.

A play about this is certainly no wierder than advertisements about drugs. Just more unexpected.