HBO’s Last Week Tonight is back from hiatus and host John Oliver immediately tackled the prescription drug industry over their incessant marketing campaigns imploring Americans to “Ask your doctor.”
Pointing out that prescription drug spending in the U.S. last year was nearly $330 billion — or about $1,000 per person — Oliver suggested that Breaking Bad’s Walter White would have been better off “cooking up rheumatoid arthritis medication.”
Of particular interest to OLiver is the massive amounts of money that Big Pharma spends on marketing; with $24 billion aimed directly at doctors last year. According to a study quoted by Oliver, 9 out of 10 top drugmakers spent more on marketing drugs than researching the drugs.
“Drug companies are like high school boyfriends,” Oliver said. “They’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.”
Oliver noted that pharmaceutical reps are usually young and attractive and often have no background in science and medicine, and their main job is to convince doctors to over-prescribe, allowing the reps to make “an ungodly sum of money.”
With doctors receiving free samples, trips, luncheons, and unusually large speaking fees from Big Pharma, Oliver suggested questions that patients should be asking their doctors, using a mock drug commercial to make the point.
“Ask your doctor today if he’s taking pharmaceutical company money. Then ask your doctor what the money is for, ” the voice-over suggests. “Ask your doctor if he’s taken any money from the companies that make the drugs he’s just prescribed for you. Then ask yourself if you’re satisfied with that answer.”
Watch the video below from Last Week Tonight: