In a 17-minute Last Week Tonight segment, John Oliver exposed how Big Pharma cares more about selling its drugs than about how well they work. He cited one damning study that revealed nine out of 10 major pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than they do on researching new drugs.
“Drug companies are like high school boyfriends: They are more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there,” John Oliver concluded in the Last Week Tonight Season 2 premiere.
In 2012 alone, Big Pharma spent more than $24 billion just on marketing to doctors, who in turn tell their patients to buy these possibly-ineffective drugs. “Drug companies know that doctors hold all the real power in the prescription drug business,” Oliver said.
These major pharmaceutical companies often hire young, attractive representatives to convince doctors to recommend these drugs to their patients. But many times, these reps don’t even know the full details of the drugs they are selling.
“Pharma reps are like the cast of Grey’s Anatomy,” John Oliver added in the Last Week Tonight Season 2 premiere. “They’re young, they’re hot, and they have virtually no medical training whatsoever.”
The reps also resort to bribery, offering doctors speaking engagements or free lunches in exchange for promoting Big Pharma’s drugs. To further prove his point, John Oliver encouraged Last Week Tonight viewers to check out this website that reveals how much money every doctor gets from these pharmaceutical companies. So many people heeded his advice that the site reportedly crashed during the Season 2 premiere.
Watch John Oliver slam Big Pharma on the Last Week Tonight Season 2 premiere.So how does John Oliver suggest solving this problem? The Last Week Tonight host recommends that Big Pharma use its marketing budget to tell consumers about the side effects of doctors taking “pharmaceutical money.” These include “chronic over-prescription, unusually heavy cash flow, dependency on free samples, inflammation of confidence, affluenza, and an increased tendency to suggest off-label prescriptions.” Oliver even ends his segment with a fake commercial advertising these harmful consequences, complete with Selfie alum Brian Huskey playing the scheming doctor.