‘Tis the season to have your own pharma-themed film festival

‘Tis the season to have your own pharma-themed film festival

The warmest family celebration of the year
is almost here! All my friends and colleagues around me have started thinking
about the best ways to spend this year’s family gathering. Well, if you are
like me—a geeky introvert who enjoys time alone—nothing goes better with family
parties and eating huge amounts of food than relaxing on the couch and
binge-watching movies and TV shows.

Throughout the year, I have come across some great movie suggestions, so I’ve made a short list for this Christmas holiday season. And today I am sharing with you my 2019 Christmas movie bucket list. If you have watched them, do let me know your thoughts. If you have better suggestions, let me know too! (Note: These are my own views, and don’t reflect the views of Elsevier.)

Dying to Survive

This is a 2018 Chinese comedy-drama film about a leukemia patient who smuggled cheap but unproven cancer medicine from India for 1,000 Chinese cancer sufferers in 2004. One of the highest-grossing films in Chinese box office history, Dying to Survive is widely considered the best movie of 2018. More importantly, the film sparked a debate about the cost of medical care among Chinese people, and urged regulators to “speed up price cut for cancer drugs” and “reduce the burden on families”.

Dallas Buyers Club

With a similar plot to Dying to Survive, but released in 2013, Dallas Buyers Club is about a cowboy diagnosed with AIDS, who discovers a banned drug that can help patients survive longer. To get around the system, he forms a club to smuggle the medicine to those in need. It has received universal acclaim, with an “incredible life story, told with a dash of humor and an empathy-evoking narrative. Brilliant would be an understatement”.

Side Effects

Starring big names like Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Side Effects is an unsettling psychological thriller about a woman who is prescribed experimental drugs by psychiatrists and experiences unexpected side effects. Although Side Effects is not based on a true story, it was a well-reviewed movie that offers some provocative commentary about mental health and the pharma industry.

150 Milligrams (La Fille de Brest)

I’m a big fan of the Toronto International
Film Festival, which combines Hollywood studio premieres and some independent
productions, providing a go-to source for new movies. Screened in the festival’s
special presentations section in 2016, this movie was based on the true story
of the diabetes drug Mediator. The drug was withdrawn on 18 December 2009, based
on the European Medicines Agency’s recommendation, because its risks—particularly
the risk of heart valve disease—were deemed greater than its benefits. This story
is about French pulmonologist Irène Frachon and her investigation of the drug’s
serious side effects.

Life According to Sam

This award-winning HBO documentary focuses
on Sam Berns, a teenager with progeria, a rare and fatal genetic disease
sometimes known as ‘premature aging syndrome.’ It also highlights the work of
his mother, Dr. Leslie Gordon, who has worked to research and find a treatment
for the incurable disease, and other kids with progeria who have taken part in
clinical trials.


Netflix released this documentary TV series just this past summer, and it features Dr. Lisa Sanders, a primary care physician and New York Times columnist. In each episode, Dr. Sanders spotlights a person who is suffering from an undiagnosed condition and guides them through a process of crowdsourcing ideas on what could be causing their mysterious symptoms. In the age of Web MD and telemedicine, it is an intriguing concept!


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