The 12 Best Documentaries About The Pharmaceutical Industry

Jul 12, 2023 | Best Of, Business, Health, Medicine

We rely on the pharmaceutical industry to provide us with essential drugs and treatments, but do we really understand its history and power? To gain a better insight into this important sector of society, why not take some time to watch one of the best documentaries about the pharmaceutical industry. From tales of drug companies pushing their products onto vulnerable people to how our current system came about in the first place, these films offer an interesting look at how it all works. So grab some popcorn and get ready to learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes! Here are the must-see documentaries that will help you understand the pharmaceutical industry better.


Pharma Bro (2021)

Martin Shkreli. A name that sends shivers down the spines of those in the pharmaceutical industry. A man who caused outrage and controversy with his actions, yet still managed to gain a cult following of fans. But who is the real Martin Shkreli? Dive deep into his story and uncover the truth behind the infamous “Pharma Bro” in this exclusive documentary.






Big Pharma: Market Failure (2017)

Experience the shocking truth behind the pharmaceutical industry in “Big Pharma: Market Failure”. Discover the hidden costs and consequences of drug development, as well as the impact of free market principles on drug prices. Dive into the controversial world of TV ads and their effect on consumers and doctors. Uncover the real story behind these big corporations and join us on a journey to challenge the status quo. Don’t miss this eye-opening documentary, now available on Amazon Prime. Are you ready to learn the truth?





Prescription Thugs (2016)

Have you ever wondered about the dark side of prescription drugs? Director Chris Bell delves deep into this controversial topic in his documentary, ‘Prescription Thugs.’ Following the success of his previous film, ‘Bigger Stronger Faster,’ Bell takes a personal approach by sharing his own struggles with prescription drug addiction. Through interviews with experts and individuals affected by the industry, this thought-provoking film sheds light on the dangerous reality of prescription drug abuse.





Unprescribed (2020)

The current state of our country’s veterans is alarming and heartbreaking. With the opioid crisis on the rise and 22 suicides a day, it’s clear that something needs to change. But what if we told you there was a safer alternative? A natural remedy that has been shunned and demonized for decades, despite its proven benefits.






What the Health (2017)

In a world filled with hidden agendas and buried truths, one filmmaker sets out on a mission to uncover the biggest health secret of our time. With determination and curiosity as his driving forces, he delves into the intricate web of connections between industry, government, pharmaceutical companies, and health organizations in an attempt to unveil the truth.





The Magic Pill (2017)

Are you tired of constantly struggling with health issues? What if the answer to all your problems could be found by simply changing what’s on your plate? The Magic Pill takes you on a journey around the world, where doctors, patients, scientists, chefs and farmers are challenging conventional beliefs about nutrition. By embracing fat as our primary source of fuel, they have unlocked the secret to better health for both humans and animals.





The Crime of the Century (2021)

In his powerful and thought-provoking documentary, filmmaker Alex Gibney delves deep into the heart of America’s opioid crisis. With expert insight and thorough research, Gibney paints a haunting picture of how this epidemic has ravaged communities across the nation.




American Addict (2013)

Come explore the hidden truth behind the world of prescription drugs. Join us on a thought-provoking journey as we uncover the shocking hypocrisy that lies beneath. Discover the role of government, big pharma, physicians and media in this eye-opening documentary. With America being home to only 5% of the world’s population, yet consuming a whopping 80% of the world’s prescription drugs, you won’t want to miss out on this revealing insight.





Got Pain? (2019)

Experience the transformative power of hope and resilience in the face of chronic pain and illness. Join us on a journey through captivating interviews with patients, doctors, and researchers as we challenge perceptions and open our minds to new possibilities. From personal struggles to medical breakthroughs, this documentary will leave you inspired and uplifted.






The Best Free Documentaries About The Pharmaceutical Industry


1. Big Bucks, Big Pharma

What is the pharmaceutical industry really about? Big Bucks, Big Pharma is a documentary that dives deep into this question. It examines how treatments are discovered and who stands to benefit from them. This film also looks at the business side of drug development and manufacturing, exploring what it all means for patients. Learn more about this complex yet essential part of our global economy with this captivating documentary!


2. Overpill: When Big Pharma Exploits Mental Health

Are you aware of the dangers and exploitation of mental health by Big Pharma? Overpill: When Big Pharma Exploits Mental Health is a documentary exposing the dark side of the US pharmaceutical industry. From young children to adults, millions are being medicated for ailments like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder with treatments that can do more harm than good. This film explores how patients become addicted to these drugs, leading to withdrawal symptoms just like any habit-forming narcotic. Watch this documentary now and discover why breaking the dependency created by big pharma medicines can be so difficult!


3. Health for Sale

Have you ever wondered who is behind the high prices of medicines? This documentary, “Health for Sale”, dives into the world of Big Pharma and their role in determining drug costs. It looks at the TRIPS agreements created by WTO which allowed these companies to impose their own prices without considering developing countries’ needs. Get an inside look at how this market works and learn more about why drugs are so expensive today.


4. Big Pharma – How much power do drug companies have?

The pharmaceutical industry has a huge impact on health policy, and some companies have been found to be covering up serious side effects of their products. This documentary will take an in-depth look at how much power drug companies really have, delving into the stories of Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. It examines the immense lobbying efforts these organizations undertake for their own gain while other companies search for a miracle cure or treatment. Follow this film as it investigates why only one-fifth of German doctors declare what they receive from the drug industry, and how this might affect public health systems during difficult times like the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ll also explore Gilead’s attempts to get approval for its new medication while competing against rivals in this highly competitive marketplace. Get all your questions answered about Big Pharma with this insightful documentary!


5. The power of the pharmaceutical companies

The power of the pharmaceutical industry is undeniable. But how much do we really know about it? This documentary dives deep into the world of pharmaceuticals and sheds light on its inner workings-from how drugs are developed, to their high price tags, and even the way that small biotech companies cooperate with universities to create life saving treatments. Discover what makes these medicines so costly and learn why 60% of newly approved medicines come from universities and small biotech companies alone! Get a glimpse into this complex yet essential industry with this eye-opening documentary that explores the value gained in one’s lifetime when it comes down to stress management advice.


6. Why Big Pharma Re-Defined Mental Illness – The Age Of Anxiety

Are you suffering from anxiety? Have you ever wondered why it’s proving to be so difficult to overcome? In The Age of Anxiety, we dive deep into what anxiety truly is, and how our modern culture is influencing its prevalence. From the medical industry’s definitions and treatments to the pharmaceutical industry’s quest for lucrative solutions, this documentary seeks to uncover the very roots of this mental illness.


7. Why Pharmaceuticals Are So Complicated In The U.S

The pharmaceutical industry is complex and understanding it can be difficult. In this video, we explore why prescription drug prices have become a political issue in the United States, Johnson & Johnson’s plans to spin off its consumer business, Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm and Covid-19 vaccine maker BioNTech. We also look at how decades of research led to the timely breakthrough that was BioNTech’s mRNA technology. Get insight into one of today’s biggest industries and learn more about how it works!


8. The Birth of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry has seen a remarkable growth over the past century. Let’s take a look at how it all began and the products that put large pharma companies on the map: Farbwerke Höchst, Bayer, and E. Merck. We’ll discuss how World War I impacted this process, as well as antipyrine, novocaine, aspirin and even heroin – drugs that made up part of their initial product portfolio. Tune in to learn more about the birth of this fascinating industry!


9. Opioids, Inc. (full documentary)

The opioid crisis has become a major issue in the US and beyond. This documentary provides an inside look at how pharmaceutical company Insys profited from Subsys, their fast-acting fentanyl spray linked to hundreds of deaths. The film follows federal prosecutors as they use anti-racketeering laws to fight organized crime and put Insys’ CEO behind bars for his role in the opioid crisis. Learn about the tactics used by Insys, including targeting high-prescribing doctors and nurse practitioners known as “whales”, misleading insurers, and holding contests for sales teams with cash prizes based on prescription doses written – despite the dangers posed to patients. Get a better understanding of this complex but important story with “Opioids Inc.”

Watch it for free on PBS


10. How To Sell a Fake Disease (And Then More Drugs)

Do you ever wonder how pharmaceutical companies are able to sell drugs for conditions that don’t exist? This documentary takes an in-depth look at the practices of big pharma and explores their tactics to medicalise normal conditions, creating diseases out of mild problems. It uncovers how they have successfully destigmatized some shameful issues and also shows the potential risks from taking medicines with dangerous side effects. Watch this documentary first released in 2012 and learn more about how these companies operate!


11. How Big Pharma Gets Dangerous Drugs Approved

Are you concerned about the practices of Big Pharma? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating this powerful industry, but it’s been accused of both not acting fast enough and rushing products to market. In this documentary, we’ll explore how the FDA could be doing a better job at protecting Americans from the greed of some pharmaceutical companies. We’ll look into their history with controversy and examine what they can do to improve trust in Big Pharma. Don’t miss out on this important exploration!


12. A lucrative disease for Big Pharma? DIABETES: A HEAVY COST

Diabetes is a growing epidemic that will affect 1 in 10 adults by 2040. But, this isn’t just a health issue; it’s also taking its toll on public finances and ruining lives. In the documentary A Heavy Cost: Diabetes – A Lucrative Disease for Big Pharma?, directors Dorothée Frénot and Benoit Rossel explore how the pharmaceutical industry has been able to capitalize off of this devastating disease while patients struggle to access proper care. With interviews from medical professionals, government officials, and people with diabetes, they paint a picture of an entire system that has gone wrong due to costly medications or lack thereof. See what could be done differently when you watch their film!


Bonus: CAUSE OF DEATH: UNKNOWN – Big Pharma & the selling of mental illness

When Anniken Hoel’s sister suddenly passed away while under treatment with antipsychotics, she was determined to find out why. She began a quest for answers that took her all over the world and uncovered the disturbing truth about the pharmaceutical industry. Aided by interviews with Peter Gøtzsche, Robert Whitaker, Joanna Moncreiff, former DSM editor Allen Frances, and an FDA whistleblower, Anniken uncovered a horrifying pattern of corruption and negligence by the industry and regulatory agencies. Through her documentary film made over ten years, she reveals the devastating consequences of these actions on people’s lives — including her sister’s.

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B