Big Pharma — How much power do drug companies have? | DW Documentary

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The pharmaceutical industry exerts a huge amount of influence on health policy. Some companies develop highly profitable drugs with public money, while others have been found to have covered up serious side effects.

The fight against Covid-19 is further fueling the greed of pharmaceutical companies. Does the industry’s influence threaten public health systems?

The industry has seen major changes in the last decade. Most of the world’s pharmaceuticals are produced by a handful of large corporations, so-called Big Pharma. They’re richer and more powerful than ever. In some cases, they can even call the shots on governmental health policies.

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This documentary is the result of more than a year of research, and brings together patients, whistleblowers, lawyers, doctors and politicians, as well as representatives of the industry. Large laboratories are accused of concealing or downplaying research results to maintain their monopolies. Take the manufacturer Sanofi, whose epilepsy drug Depakine triggered a scandal throughout Europe. In the US, Johnson & Johnson has had to stand trial for driving millions of people into opioid addiction. And Novartis is one of several companies now facing huge fines over improper practices in the treatment of macular degeneration, an eye disease.

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The pharmaceutical industry gets support from influential doctors. But only one-fifth of German doctors declare what they receive from drug companies. As the world battles the Coronavirus pandemic, this documentary also looks at the lobbying efforts of manufacturer Gilead, as it seeks approval for a promising drug developed largely with public money. Every company is vying to find the next miracle treatment that will help it succeed against the competition.

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