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Adam Omkara: And you said you were actually trained to misinform people- Can you elaborate on that?
Gwen: Well, initially when you start pharmaceutical sales training you are taken into the home office for a sort of 'indoctrination' that's 2-6 weeks of intensive training. That's where the industry turns representatives into psychological profilers and people pleasers. The reps learn how to be people analyzers, so they know how to best influence people. We were taught in training sessions called 'knee to knees' and 'toe to toes' where you have a line of reps that play the doctor and opposing lines that play the rep position.
You have to learn verbatim the company's position and their marketing lines- you can't even vary from that. You practice and practice until it flows naturally and doesn't sound rehearsed.
I started recognizing really that I was being trained to divert doctor's attention away from his/her concerns. So, I was learning to misinform and disinform- to counter the doctor's valid concerns. I wasn't trained to say "this drug is bad for that patient" or "watch out for this drug's interaction with that one." Any information perceived as a negative was always being candy coated.
In fact many times we would be called into a meeting when a new sales piece was being introduced. Managers would ask us questions on what aspects of the piece we received the most objections on. What were the parts that raised the most concern? After we gave the marketing department that feedback, the next period they would come up with a different layout that had manipulated and minimized the objectionable data. So, it was a constant set of circumstances where I began to see that I wasn't allowed to give good information and I wasn't given good information to share.
The industry knows that many of their drugs aren't safe and that they don't heal people. In fact, some drugs are designed to make symptoms worse later on.
When I started becoming pro-active and began to ask too many critically intelligent questions, management objected and discouraged me. I was frequently met with answers such as "We do it that way because we can", or "We sell more pills that way."
It was apparent my inquiries were not welcomed!
It was almost like being in the military, in fact, many of my ex-managers had been in the military. Many are hired because they have great work ethics and they don't ask a lot of questions. Military personnel are used to working on a 'need to know' basis.
Washington D.C., March 27, 2011 - Pharmaceuticals are a $650 plus billion dollar a year industry. For years the most profitable business in the U.S. has been the pharmaceutical corporations, which routinely top the annual fortune 500 list. Doctor prescribed drugs support an industry which out-earns the GNP of many nations.
A core attribute to big Pharma's overwhelming 'success' lays in the liaison between the corporations and the 'symptoms management' health care industry: The pharmaceutical representative. The men and women we see meeting with physicians, walking into offices with gifts of lunch for the staff, meeting with the doctor while you wait for our appointment.
Gwen Olsen was a top level pharmaceutical rep for some of the biggest in the industry: Johnson & Johnson, Syntex Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Laboratories and Forest Laboratories.
Through some chilling wake up calls in her tenure, and the tragic drug-related death of her niece, Gwen has dedicated her life to making people aware of the dangers of prescription drugs and how the drug industry manipulates doctors into prescribing, and over prescribing, their drugs.
She is exposing the dark, deep-rooted deception and corruption that is prevalent in this industry.
Gwen Olsens words are powerful. Her message absolutely frightening. Below is a transcript of our conversation as well as a video of Gwen speaking out, including her appearance on a CBS Evening News Eye On Your Children news segment.