Too much is rotten within the global pharmaceutical industry.
An increasing number of Norwegians suffer anxiety or depression. Many of these psychosomatic illnesses are borderlin normal and sickly reactions. Of course, Norway is not alone here. In the US for instance, psychic illnesses caused by stress, and insomnia, have shot up aggressively in the past 20 years. One thing is to worry about this fact, which happens many places around the West, more disconcerting is that medication seems to be the only way out in all these cases. These are approved drugs with side-effects the patients themselves know shockingly little about. Dangerous side-effects, according to filmmaker Anniken Hoel. She is not the first wanting to open our eyes to the pharmaceutical industry’s dirty system, as her Cause of Death: Unknown premieres at the CPH:DOX in Copenhagen in March.
Some 11 years ago, Hoel lost her sister Renathe, but no one knew the reason why. The cause of death was simply classed as ‘unknown’. The only thing they knew, was that the sister was a patient of psychiatry prescribed antipsychotics, issued by her psychologist. Following some medical research, Hoel discovers that the dosage her sister was prescribed – a cocktail of antipsychotics including the popular medicine Zyprexia – was increased considerably in the period preceding her mysterious death.
And thus starts Hoel’s detective journey to get some sort of justice for her sister and others who pay the price for a crazy medical system. Not only is the pharmaceutical industry ruled by market forces and a profits race. In addition, drugs approval is led by a formula stating that if its efficiency outweigh the risks, i.e. the side-effects, it will be sanctioned. This is also the case even if the side-effects include sudden death. It does not take long before Hoel ends up in The US. It is here the big corporation that manufacture most of the drugs are. Lilly is one of these, and manufacture among others, the ‘big hit’ – Prozac. Due to the fact that the monopoly on a certain drug expires after a certain period, this drug is milked for what it is worth to achieve maximum profits, through marketing and advertising. As Prozac became common goods and cheaper, Lilly decided to invest in Zyprexa instead. A small problem for Lilly was the fact that Zyprexa is a drug for bipolar disorders, the same consumers who already used Prozac — which is supposed to alleviate milder depressions. Using somewhat misleading marketing, in their best shopping channel-guise Lilly was successful.
Zyprexa was even more profitable than its predecessor Viva Zyprexa. But what about this side-effect that can affect the heart beat and perhaps cause death? In Norway alone, some 2,500 people under 45 has died using drugs against mental illnesses.
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