I bought myself a nice hand-basket in Jersey...
If, by some act of grace, past misdeeds had not already earned me a spot in Hell, I have with all certainty secured a first-class ticket now...seeing as I spent last week helping The Devil make Training Films for his Sales Reps.
Like all things related to Evil, none of us knew what we had gotten ourselves into until it was too late to back out. I certainly had no inkling my conscience would be jeopardized when I took the job, nor did the production company I freelance for. As a matter of fact, I've had nothing but wonderful experiences with them on each shoot. Yes, the subject matter is a bit boring, but never evil. They're just stupid industrials after all... films intended to show new employees the finer points of their 401k plans, or their choices of health benefit packages, or about workplace safety... bland, helpful, Satan-free information. So I didn't even ask who the client was. Factor in that I haven't had a regular jobby-job* for nearly a year and half, and their company (with random exception) is my only means of income... I don't ask questions whenever they call and ask "Can you do a shoot this week?" I just hold my grumbling tummy and say yes.
It turns out that their client, The Devil, is a major pharmaceutical company who's name I cannot utter since I am small and poor and they are big and rich, and as you'd expect, have several hundred corporate lawyers on the payroll. But you know them, trust me. You know them as the manufacturer of a '#1 Doctor Recommended Pain Reliever', the one which needs a prescription when the words 'with codeine' follow the brand name... or from their birth control pills, the three cycle kind (white then green then blue) that come in a little pink, circular compact... the one now being advertised as the only pill proven to clear up pimples? Okay! Are we on the same page? Well... them.
So we entered the building totally naive, just another industrial, right?... we didn't really notice we had been photographed and metal-detected at the door, or that our IDs, film equipment, license plate numbers, and personal belongings had been double checked before we could be granted a laminated pass to the "Training Facility" (solely). I don't remember seeing the armed, plain-clothed security guards that first morning, or the video cameras everywhere, or the odd way people exchanged only the most benign pleasantries in the halls. It never occurred to me they insisted we film on location for reasons of security and confidentiality, not even when I was signing papers to that effect. Truthfully, everything about the corporate world is foreign and weird to me. I don't know why they do what they do. I just know it all gives me the creeps. I figured my creep-sensors were going off like they normally would whenever I'm in the company of a bunch of white guys wearing ties.
It wasn't until we wrapped up the first scene that I began to suspect anything . The scenes were written in the "Wrong Way, Right Way" format, evidently still popular among those who utilize propaganda. (Think: those hygiene films from the 50's, or more currently, a training or sexual harassment film you might have had to watch at work.) But the content, unlike something helpful --such as how NOT to get your hand caught in a large hand-mangling machine-- was instead filled with greasy double talk designed to get doctors to prescribe potentially harmful, and in some cases deadly, drugs to their patients.
The first scene, (again, I cannot mention the drug or it's use, I signed in blood, remember?) showed a rep mentioning the mountains of clinical research indicating their product causes severe side effects in a large percentage of patients, leaps and bounds above placebo... or as they called it, the 'wrong way'. The 'right way' with this product was to direct the doctor's attention away from the research, and highlight how the drug is less expensive (four cents less a pill), is smaller and easier to swallow, and has a higher, and therefore more effective dose.
Now me being me, I asked questions, like..."So this pill is the same medicine as your competitor, just a different shape and higher dose, right?"
Me: "And it's more effective because..."
Them: "Because patients are more likely to take the whole prescription when there are less pills to take."
Me: "But the current brand's dose has very few documented side-effects, right? About equal to placebo?"
Me: "And this pill has several side-effects..."
Them: "Well, for some. Remember, even Aspirin and vitamin C can kill some people..." And then he launched into some glassy-eyed wrote that included AMA approved dose/risk ratios, and rates of patient return, and insurance costs and employee absences and taxpayer dollars. Now mind you, this was not a drug that would normally incur great risk on the part of the patient, like radical chemotherapy treatments for instance, it was something you might take if you had a cold that hung on too long, or would sometimes be prescribed as a precaution for people with suppressed immune systems, diabetes or hypo-thyroid disease.
Me: "So essentially what you're saying is that in the opinion of AMA and (his company) the increased risk of side-effects is less important than missed work, insurance charges, or medicaid costs. That side-effects are worth it if it keeps people away from the doctors office."
Them: "Yes." And he smiled. He fucking smiled a little sideways gash that said he wasn't kidding. He wasn't.
Revelations brought on by the following training scenes were even more frightening. One of the drugs manufactured by (the Devil) was designed to treat a symptom description found only in women; pelvic pain, incontinence, and painful intercourse that persists after the obvious diagnoses have been ruled out. What do they recommend? Essentially a pain-pill and intra-uterine coater (the script said, "like Pepto-Bismol for the uterus") with horrific side-effects, a AMA approved last-ditch you give someone when you don't know what's wrong, and don't really care to investigate further. That particular scene was directing the sales staff to suggest this pill for men with pelvic pain as well, the logic being that, hey....if it works for a woman...oh, and don't peek at that damming clinical research. I can't even mention the way in which the anti-spasmatics, anti-psychotics, and mood-elevators were spun. Suffice it to say you should pray to GOD you, or anyone you love, never ends up with a debilitating mental illness. They can pretty much do whatever they want to you then. The cure is considered worth any risk to your life (since, well, your life is worthless at that point, right?)
But my horror solidified during the last shoot on the last day. This sales pitch targeted ER doctors only. The product, a strong, Percacet-type pain-reliever (the Devil) specifically designed for a classification of patients they called SMPP's. After reading the script I could guess contextually what the acronym stood for, but it was never said aloud. This was really the most diabolical of all. This, very expensive drug, was designed for patients who return to the ER complaining of chronic pain and seeking pain medication. The sales staff were instructed to pitch this drug to doctors for patients in two categories:
First; there are the patients who do not have medical benefits and often receive no preventative or diagnostic medical care, and therefore, rarely seek medical attention until they are experiencing acute pain. This little film showed salespeople how to push this drug as a replacement for diagnostic services which are not the primary concern of an ER unit. In other words, hey doc, this pill will kill all pain, although it won't address the cause, it'll get them the hell out of your ER and back into the ghetto where they belong.
Second; those are self-medicating pain patients...a catch all category of drug-addicts, recreational drug users, those who take larger than average doses of over the counter medication (like antacids, or aspirin), and the category of the under-insured described above. This pill was recommended for this group as well, even though the side effects associated with the drug became SEVERE when combined with several, common, over the counter remedies (even vitamins and homeopathics), and became DEADLY when combined with street drugs like crack. The rationale? It is not within the ER's ability or responsibility to get a full patient profile in an emergency setting. They can prescribe this drug after simply asking the patient if he or she uses any other drugs. If they say no, and as we all know drug addicts rarely lie about their drug use, the doctor is legally and medically in the clear. Either way, they emptied another bed in the ER.
Do you want to know who is in charge of your health, your life? Car salesmen. When I was touching up the make-up of one of the participants in that last scene, I asked him what he did before working for (the Devil). "I was a car salesmen." he said. "I sold cars in Virginia."
Perhaps it's naïveté, or just the way we all plug our ears so we don't have to hear the scream of capitalism, I guess I don't know why I'm so shocked. All their high-fives and "you 'da man's" and little fucking plastic plaques that say they won "Top Five blah blah of the Year" which translates, to them, to another ten thousand a year. The women dressing and acting like men, the African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans talking like they grew up in New England on camera or to the boss, and then adopting their natural accent off...it was disgusting. Salesmen run our world. Fucking salesmen control your life, your health, your happiness.
Somewhere in New Jersey a car salesmen just decided how to treat your Grandmother's Alzheimer's.
And I showed him how.