By Don Simpson | April 21, 2012
Directors: Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher
With Off Label, directors Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher dive headfirst into the moral, economic and scientific dilemma of human guinea pigs. Palmieri and Mosher concurrently explore the way pharmaceuticals have become ingratiated into everyday American life as well as our culture’s addiction to taking pills for anything and everything. Really now — do human beings really need to take so many pills? If so, what is the most humane way to test the safety and effectiveness of medications?
Cross-cut between the lives of human guinea pigs, industry insiders and drug consumers; Off Label observes the multitude of effects that drugs has on our modern society. From the subjects’ varying perspectives on the pharmaceutical food chain, we learn how and why they participate in the testing, marketing, selling, and consuming of prescription drugs in the United States. The Off Label subjects include: a 22-year-old army medic who contends with PTSD from his time as an Abu Ghraib prison guard; a woman who fights for medical testing reforms following her son’s suicide while participating in an anti-depressant marketing study; a bohemian couple who pays for their wedding by doing drug trials for money; an African American Muslim who still suffers from the side effects of experiments conducted upon him while he was in prison; a Pfizer drug rep turned medical anthropologist who tracks the course and influence of the drug market he once helped foster.
Off Label is frustrating to blood curdling levels. If you do not already detest the big pharma industrial complex, you certainly will after watching Palmieri and Mosher’s documentary. The inherent greed of capitalism is at the root of all the evil. Free enterprise my ass! People’s lives are at stake, so is the future of the human race; yet all big pharma cares about is money.
Multiple variations on the Carter family song “No Depression In Heaven” guide us along Palmieri and Mosher’s artistic yet journalistic documentary. More poetic, illuminating and thoughtful than Michael Moore’s Sicko, hopefully Off Label will have a better chance at convincing people that the health care industry in the U.S. is totally fucked up.