She admits it. Gwen Olsen spent fifteen years as a sales representative for the pharmaceutical industry. In the video below, she tells it like it is. She admits that drug companies aren’t in the business of finding cures. They’re in the business of symptom management. That’s because if they found a cure for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or mental disorders, they’d be putting themselves out of business. Their goal is to keep you buying their drugs, preferably for life.
Why? Because that’s how they make money.
Ah. Honesty. It’s such a rare thing these days. In her mind-blowing book, Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher, Olsen tells her story beginning with her life as a drug representative, her own foray into mental illness and psychiatric drugs, and ultimately the tragedy that befell her teenage niece — a young woman who committed suicide by setting herself on fire, ending her tortured life as a victim of the adverse effects of prescription drugs.
Gwen’s story is the story of awakening, of hard-won truths, and of integrity. In the following passage from Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher, she reveals her first true moral quandary as a pharmaceutical sales rep:
Out of all of the drugs I had sold over the years in various specialties, the only drug that ever really challenged my moral ethics was Haldol, particularly Haldol decanoate. This was the “Big Daddy” of all neuroleptics. It made me cringe while learning about this newest form of Haldol during the launch meeting when I envisioned the possible torture in store for some patients. As I indicated earlier, patient non-compliance was a fairly common drawback with Haldol treatment. The side effects of neuroleptic drugs can be absolutely unbearable.
As a hospital rep, I would frequently see institutionalized patients pacing frantically back and forth in waiting rooms, hallways, and outside in foyers. Some would literally wear the soles off of their house shoes. Others would fall sound asleep prostrate on the ground, wherever they were when the drug’s sedative effects hit. Patients frequently drooled, sat staring into space, experienced facial grimacing, or continually made pill-rolling motions between their thumbs and forefingers. I soon realized many of the bizarre behaviors and movements I had previously identified with schizophrenia and other mental illness were entirely the fault of the medications the patients were taking. They were not a manifestation of these disorders.
Once, I encountered a twelve-year-old boy in the emergency room who had taken his grandmother’s medication. His eyes had rolled into the back of his head and locked there. This is known as an oculogyric crisis. However, where my heart really went out was to the poor, little elderly patients in the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital, the nursing homes, and the psychiatric wards. They seemed to suffer the most on Haldol. I heard constant reports about excessive dry mouth, blurry vision, painful constipation, and urinary retention. (Nurses even complained about fecal impacts associated with chronic neuroleptic use.) These side effects are known as anticholinergic effects, and my training had actually consisted of a little rhyme to assist me in learning them. It went, “Patients on Haldol can’t see, can’t spit, can’t pee, and can’t shit.”
Reps were instructed to minimize these side effects by encouraging the doctor to simply administer an anticholinergic drug simultaneously with Haldol. Still, the most dreaded side effect by patients and doctors alike remained akathisia. A patient with agitated akathisia could not only be self-injurious, but was also a danger to other patients and staff.
These observations led me to question the medical prudence and moral ethics behind giving a long-acting, irreversible neuroleptic like Haldol decanoate, especially because Haldol was documented to have a huge potential to cause negative side effects. Once this drug was on board and a patient reacted to it, there was absolutely nothing doctors could do except give additional drugs to manage the side effects while the patient rode out the three weeks the injection was intended to last. Of course, three weeks was only the half-life of the drug. There would be remaining drug residual for some time after that.
The company’s position was that the untreated schizophrenic patient is a threat to society and himself. Traditional oral medications could not ensure patient compliance in the absence of an institutional setting. With larger numbers of mental health patients being forced into outpatient settings such as MHMR facilities, there seemed to be a real, perceived need for this extended release form of Haldol. Hence, the product managers argued the benefits outweighed the risks, particularly when you considered one of the benefits was that Haldol decanoate would enjoy an exclusive patent whereas the old haloperidol was available generically and sold at a significant cost reduction. Not only did Haldol decanoate ensure patient compliance, it ensured corporate longevity as well.
Watch the video.
Why you should read the book.
Gwen Olsen is not a conspiracy theorist. Rather, her story is backed up by research and experience. Read what one Amazon reviewer wrote:
I’ve been a pharmacist since 1971 and I vividly recall a conversation I once had with a drug salesman (called detail man at the time). He explained that his goal was to sell a certain number of dollars worth of one particular drug. He stated that he didn’t care whether he sold one pill or a million, as long as the price worked out to his goal. That conversation has stuck with me for over two decades because it was at that moment that I first realized my perception of the drug companies was far different from what people in that industry believed.
Perhaps I was naive, but during pharmacy school and years of work at a large county hospital, I found that I actually believed my profession was honorable and that I was part of a giant team focused on helping people be healthy and get well when illness struck. This was surely the ideal in school, and I assumed things actually operated that way.
Gwen Olsen’s book is exactly as the title says, a CONFESSION. She has done a clear, masterful job describing how she unwittingly lived through the horrors of a harmful, dysfunctional family and found herself enmeshed in an industry where she was expected to make sales at any cost. Concern for an ill person was not part of her work paradigm.
The author not only lived through the personal and business issues but exited from both, apparently still intact. After my first reading of “Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher”, I described it to friends as terrifying and almost sickening. That description remains valid. More important than the story is the reports of experience, learning, and growth that shaped this author into a perfect spokesperson for all of us who find ourselves in direct opposition to the antics of the drug companies. If I hadn’t had direct experience with the issues Olsen describes in her book, I might think she was engaged in fiction, not reporting fact. Sadly, she’s right on track. Her tale is still terrifying, but you should read it – maybe more than once. You may begin to understand that it has never been the intent of any drug maker to improve health. Instead, their goal has always been to maximize profits at the expense of health.
If you or your loved ones are enslaved to pharmaceutical drugs, you will want to read this book! Unlike other books that try to tackle the same subject, this one shines like a light in the darkness because of its unflinching honesty. Gwen’s ability to expose her personal journey to such scrutiny, to share it with such precision and empathy, and to act with integrity in the face of her discoveries is nothing short of amazing.
Click here to buy the book.
It’s on sale for the shockingly low price of $10.06! The Kindle version of the book sells at an easily accessible $4.62.
This book looks really interesting. My husband used to be a pharmaceutical sales rep. He often speaks about those couple of years with a lot of sadness. Despite the financial “rewards” he couldn’t consider doing it any longer than the couple of years he put into it. He’s much happier now.
Amy Love @ Real Food Whole Health says
I’m not sure I could stomach reading this book. I know it’s excellent information, but I already am well aware of the corruption of Big Pharma and don’t know if I could really read it all in detail. I do highly recommend reading this post, and it definitely struck a chord with me because I personally suffered an episode of oculogyric crisis (eyes rolled back in head, neck stuck to the side) for several hours when I was hospitalized at 13 due to daily migraines. It was a reaction to the drug Reglan, an antiemetic drugs (anti-nausea) that was supposed to help me deal with the massive doses of whatever other drugs they were giving me. It didn’t help and it caused this horrific reaction- my parents thought I was dying in front of them- and I still suffer eye and neck problems to this day, no doubt in some part due to this severe reaction. Anyway, the drug companies are evil, evil, evil to the core and absolutely are driven by blood money…they don’t care who they hurt or how many they hurt…they just want to make a profit and get away with it.
Patrick Barnes says
READ THE BOOK and stand up against the Industrial/Pharmaceutical Complex. Check out my blog Bipolarbear, I am a Psychologist with Bipolar/Alcoholism Dual Disorder
Reglan is a neuroleptic. People aren’t usually told that.
Just google and watch “Burzynski The Movie” – incredible story that is not well know to the public.
Leah McIntosh says
And then there’s this: http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/02/10561824-people-keep-falling-sick-how-poor-indians-are-recruited-for-clinical-drug-trials Profit comes before any other consideration.
One of the reasons marijuana is having problems being legalized, even though it is no worse than alcohol (being drunk is no better than being high, etc) is the fact that people suffering from anxiety or cancer will benefit from marijuana, thereby taking away the need to spend thousands of dollars on pharmaceutical drugs.
I have every intention of spending my money on this book. It’s worth it.
Patrick Barnes says
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and it told me what I already knew being a Psychologist and seeing the abuses over the years and having been abused myself for treatment of my own Bipolar disorder. I highly recommend it and hope everybody reads it. Down with the Industrial/Pharmaceautical Complex. See my blog Bipolarbear and spread the word.
I have bipolar with psychotic features. Without antipsychotic drugs, I would be dead. I know that many drugs suck(my brother took Haldol & it made him a Zombie) and that the pharmaceutical companies are all about profit, but you can’t just throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some drugs DO save life- I am living proof.
I took an early retirement from pharmacy. Ethically I began to have a number of issues and came to the place where I wondered how many people I was really helping. When I was a new pharmacist, I did feel like part of a health care team but as the years went by, retail pharmacy is a factory like job and the bulk of drugs are pain pills, sleep aids, antidepressants, and psychotropic drugs: stuff I would never take. I could not be a part of this anymore and I also had an issue with the forcing of pharmacists to give vaccines, many of which I also would never take myself.
sharlene spalding says
Yet people continue to trust their doctors. The side effects of statins, anti psychotics, anti depressants, vaccines etc etc are becoming more and more well known yet the pharmaceutical industry grows unabated. How can this be? Even the drug ads on TV first tell you how great their drug but there usually is a decent mention of all the possible side effects. That in itself should wake people up, but people are so brainwashed that their doctor is “different” or their drug is necessary for their special circumstances. I don’t understand the masses. Never have. It is good stuff when former pharmaceutical reps speak the truth about the industry. But it is going to take a lot more than that. Little by little we must chip away of the lies of the pharmaceutical industry
The idea that people who take medications are “brainwashed” is truly out of touch with reality. Most people wouldn’t take meds if they didn’t need them, but some people DO need them. Should we send people who are psychotic out into the streets unmedicated? I’ve seen what can happen in that scenario and it is worse than any drug, regardless of the side effects. Sadly, most people continue to misunderstand the gravity and complexity of mental illness- which is a much bigger problem than the drug companies.
Just finished reading this, I read it on my Kindle after reading your recommendation. The factual info is great, unfortunately its only about half about the Rx industry. The rest is personal anecdotes, poems and a lot of ”God can heal you” hooey.
I wish if she was going to veer off course from her Rx experiences into solutions, she would have given actual science based solutions, andore than a few paragraphs on eating healthfully.
Diana Lee says
As someone with multiple chronic illnesses who takes a variety of prescription medications and supplements, I wish I knew who the heck to trust. I trust my doctors to the extent I can, but I know they are part of the system that feeds the industrial medical machine and are blind to some of the realities. It’s scary.