Big Pharma Doc The Business of Disease Suffers From Histrionic Undertones and Cheap Graphics


Much of the information director Sonia Barrett puts forth in her documentary The Business of Disease is common sense, though — as one interview subject notes — not necessarily common knowledge.

The core of this exposé is that illness (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) is a multibillion-dollar industry whose various bigwigs — ranging from Big Pharma to the medical establishment — keep us all in a state of fear stoked by marketing. Barrett’s solution, echoed by many of the doctors, former pharmaceutical insiders, and assorted therapists and researchers she interviews, is offered in the Thomas Edison quote that opens the film: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

The future that Edison predicted is here, but it is in a David-and-Goliath battle with the profit margin. Almost two dozen experts from assorted fields untangle the web of government collusion, corporate malfeasance, and medical-industry conventions that go into amassing the ill-gotten gains, but these are dots that countless other documentarians have been connecting for a while now: government crackdowns on organic farms, the conflicting and contradictory trends on what to eat or avoid for optimum health even as obesity becomes a national crisis, and news items on the profits reaped by pharmaceutical companies.

A sprinkling of New Age spiritualism coats it all. The brisk, informative film wants to press the urgency of this perfect storm of capitalistic opportunism but is weakened by a frequently overwrought score and cheap graphics that often give Business something of a histrionic undertone.