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John Oliver exposes pharmaceutical companies’ outrageous practices

We already knew that drug companies were evil. But this proves they're so much worse than we thought.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Feb 9, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 2:25 pm CDT

In the first episode of Last Week Tonight‘s second season, John Oliver took on a powerful new enemy: Big Pharma.

The segment examined the ugly side of pharmaceutical marketing, looking at companies whose main goal is to make money rather than actually help anyone recover from an illness. “Drug companies are a bit like high school boyfriends,” Oliver says at one point. “They’re much more concerned with getting inside you than being effective once they’re in there.”

Along with some things most of us already knew (for example, the fact that pharmaceutical companies hire attractive young representatives to market their drugs to doctors and hospitals), Oliver discussed how drug companies persuade doctors to work for them by giving them the flattering title of “thought leader,” at which point the doctors are paid to deliver pre-written speeches advertising certain drugs. Some of their other schemes amount to blatant bribery, like paying for trips to Hooters in exchange for an endorsement. 

Apparently nine out of 10 of the major pharmaceutical companies spend more money on marketing than they do on research. As Oliver emphasizes, that really tells you all you need to know.

Photo via Last Week Tonight/YouTube

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*First Published: Feb 9, 2015, 10:03 am CST