Gwen Olsen worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep for some of the biggest names in pharmacy. During her 15 years in the industry, she worked for manufacturers such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Laboratories and Johnson & Johnson.
During her time in the industry, she experienced a growing realization that pharmaceutical companies do not have people's best interests at heart. While medications and other treatments, at least in theory, exist to help people, the truth is that truly curing people of what ails them would leave Big Pharma without any customers– and that's just bad business.
As she started to wake up to what was really going on, a personal tragedy inspired her to walk away from the industry for good. She said that it was an "awakening process" wherein she started to see what was happening to people as a result of prescription medications, adding that there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation.
She pointed out that by the time a drug is approved and goes on the market for the general population, we still don't even know half of the side effects that can be seen.
She added: “I was being encouraged to minimize side effects when I talked to doctors. I started to realize that these patients were literally being tortured by the drugs.”
However, it was her niece’s experience that drove home the personal cost of all these lies. After getting in a car accident at age 20, her niece was prescribed Vicodin hydrocodone for the pain and became addicted. The sedative was impacting the pre-med student’s concentration, so she started taking a stimulant, ephedrine, to help her stay on top of her studies.
After a drug interaction brought her to the hospital, she was labeled as bipolar by doctors rather than admitting the more likely cause was a reaction to the drugs she was taking or a drug toxicity. This led to her being given antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, and then her tale ended up like so many others who are put on these psych meds: She dropped out of school, became severely depressed, and ultimately took her own life.
Her niece’s suicide inspired her to start raising awareness about the industry’s practices to help prevent future tragedies. She said: “And I realize that there are thousands and thousands of people out there that need a voice, and I’m serving as that voice.”
Olsen wrote the book Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher about her experiences.
She said one of her biggest concerns these days is for the millions of children who are being put on antipsychotics, especially those in foster care. Because psychiatric diagnoses do not require any blood tests or concrete scientific data, it is all too easy for these doctors to grow their patient population – and for Big Pharma to profit significantly.
She said: “A large number of psychiatrists are dishonest, because I see them giving people drugs that they know are brain damaging therapeutics, that they know do not have positive, long-term outcomes, that they know will not cure anything.”
Olsen shared her anger and disillusionment when she learned that she was basically used in Big Pharma’s game, and as someone working on the front lines on their behalf, she was unintentionally harming people – and it’s a burden she says she will carry with her forever.
It’s incredibly brave of her to speak out about this serious issue that so many others keep silent about as they continue to collect their paychecks. If only more people working in Big Pharma would take a similar stand, countless people who have died at the hands of dangerous drugs might still be alive today.
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