Gwen Olsen used to deal drugs. She earned a lot of money doing it, and didn’t think about quitting until her niece, Megan Blanchard, died after a long period of severe depression and mental illness while on a cocktail of narcotics.
Olsen wasn’t selling meth or heroin. She was selling prescription drugs as a sales rep for Big Pharma. After Megan’s tragic death, Olsen realized that what she was doing was immoral. “We are trained to misinform,” she says.
Gwen worked for McNeil Pharmaceutical, Syntex Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Labs and Forest Laboratories. She was a hospital rep and specialist rep for the majority of her career, educating residents in hospital teaching settings and selling prescription drugs to doctors in obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, cardiology, neurology, endocrinology and psychiatry.
After her niece’s early death, Olsen left the industry and went on to write ‘Confessions of an RX drug pusher’, in which she details how sales reps and doctors are complicit in destroying the lives of vulnerable people. Almost half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and last year, a record four billion prescriptions were written in the States. In comparison with other developed Western countries, North America is off the scale. Are all of these drugs needed? Of course not. Like everything else, it’s all about the money.
Big Pharma spends more on marketing than it does on research, as John Oliver explained in an eye-opening segment of the Tonight show last February. He also pointed out that sales reps are hungry, ambitious, and extremely good at what they do. Olsen is testament to this, but she sees her past as a means to an end. In her current work as an activist, speaker and author on the dangers of prescription drugs, Olsen says: “It’s a spiritual calling for me. And I do it with great conviction and passion.”
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