Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 1, 2008
Pharmaceutical industry film brings notoriety to U.S. woman
By JOE WINTER
Catholic News Service
A movie based on questionable marketing tactics she saw when she worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a sales representative has brought notoriety to a Wisconsin Catholic woman.
Side Effects was reviewed by many of the biggest industry publications the world over, including the British medical journal The Lancet, then did well in sales when it was came out on DVD in 2007, said Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau who produced the film.
The film is based on her on-the-job experiences as a pharmaceutical rep.
Slattery-Moschkau has a company called Hummingbird Pictures, which has other projects on the same theme in the works, she added.
When it comes to marketing pharmaceuticals, "things are not done in the best interest of the patient," Slattery-Moschkau said in an interview. "The (sales) reps are evaluated by the number of pills they move through their territory, and the number that are prescribed."
Based on their performance evaluations, and how they sway the doctors they call on, the reps usually are either offered big bonuses or fired, she said.
"They are looking for bubbly, bright Kens and Barbies. It is all about spin and how something is pitched," Slattery-Moschkau said. Lines of sales banter are taught and rehearsed in the training sessions - which often stress simply the pronunciation of the drugs.
If the latest research is favourable, it becomes a big part of the selling pitch, but if not, the information is squelched, Slattery-Moschkau said.
When her movie was released, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told USA Today the film "really does sound like fiction considering that all sales representatives undergo extensive technical training and are prepared to answer questions about new medicines and their characteristics."
Slattery-Moschkau said she was not qualified to tell doctors how they should prescribe, since her degree is in political science, not medicine. Still, she said she was hired to do just that.
She said Side Effects is really a David versus Goliath story, adding that she was concerned about writing it, because she worried she would face repercussions from the industry.
"For 10 years, as a drug rep, almost daily I experienced the comical marketing tactics of the industry, as well as their dangerous pursuit of profits that can, and have, come at the expense of patients' lives," said Slattery-Moschkau, who finally left the industry.
"It was very difficult, because the money and perks are so seductive, but eventually I couldn't look in the mirror any longer."
About her movie, she added: "I chose to do it as a story instead of a documentary, because I thought I could reach a wider audience that way."
The right to know
She wanted to provide, in an entertaining format, information about medications and people's health.
Slattery-Moschkau also produced a documentary to go along with the movie called Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety.