Interview with Orgasm Inc. director Liz Canner plus what I’ve learned from the documentary

Orgasm Inc. - The Strange Science of Female Pleasure

I had a lot of unexpected fun and gained much insight (FDA-approved clinical trials, drugs vs placebo, etc) from watching the internationally widely acclaimed documentary Orgasm Inc by director Liz Canner. And I was fortunate to be able to arrange an interview with Liz to talk about her doc and issues raised by her film.

[Note: Feel free to check out the included film trailer and and film synopsis at the end of this article. If you live in Canada, I highly recommend you watch Orgasm Inc. for FREE online at CBC The Passionate Eye. Other countries may have similar arrangement, check Orgasm Inc for more info.]

Here is my interview and insightful chat with Liz – Part 1 (See my comments after the interview video clips.)

Interview – Part 2

Now, before I start discussing some serious issues, I want to say Orgasm Inc. is “upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative” and indeed will “change the way you think about sex.” In short, the film is fun (pron selection for medical study) and thoughtful at the same time, so don’t let the seriousness in the following discussion scare you from watching Orgasm Inc.

The claim of “43% of American women experienced sexual dysfunction

In the film, Liz dug deep and discovered the origin of the “43% of American women experienced sexual dysfunction” claim was from the article “Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors” (JAMA 1999). Problems with the widely publicized “43%” claim, as Liz explained in the film and the above interview, include:

* the 1999 study was based on extremely liberal interpretation of sociological survey conducted in the early 90s. In fact, a woman answering “yes” to these questions will qualify her as “sexual dysfunction“.

* the authors’ financial ties with the drugs companies. (originally undisclosed when the article was first published)

The Berman Sisters and other “experts” in the media

Dr. Laura Berman, a very photogenic/charming lady,  has been on Oprah and different TV shows many times and she will even have a TV show on Oprah’s new TV station in 2011. At the same time, the film posts some serious challenge to Dr. Berman’s credibility (financial ties with drug companies) (doc info based on this detailed LA Times article “Dr. [Jennifer] Berman’s Sex Rx“) and talks her beliefs of drugs’ benefits when these “benefits” have not been shown as scientifically significant (i.e. no better than placebo) in FDA-approved clinical trials.

I am now more cautious when I see “experts” speaking on TV in advance of drugs launches, the public need to know drug companies often spend millions to promote drugs. For example, P&G spending $100 million to advertise a drug can be powerful and influential enough to create the need for the drugs when people are not really “sick” and don’t really need the drugs.

It seems wrong to me that “medical experts” are permitted to be much less careful on TV speaking to the general public, declaring their “beliefs” of the benefits of certain medications when the drug companies’ own FDA approved researches have clearly failed to prove the benefits in a scientifically significant manner.

Off-label use of medications

Quoting Wikipedia, “Off-label use is the practice of prescribing pharmaceuticals for an unapproved indication.” I now am much better aware of the potential danger of off-label use which may not be work to the benefit of the patients.

Medical ethics

In some way, Orgasm Inc expose the lack of medical ethics in our society. In an age where drugs are billion dollars businesses, there are many doctors, “experts”, TV/showbiz personalities who are willing to do and say things for money. So it is very important for the public to be careful to not blindly trust anyone.

I first read about medical ethics in Dr. A. J. Cronin‘s classic novel “The Citadel” and I am saddened to see there are enough “doctors” today willing to bend or disregard their medical ethics in order to make money.

To recap, here is a film trailer.

Here is the film synopsis (emphasis added),

In the shocking and hilarious documentary ORGASM INC., filmmaker Liz Canner takes a job editing erotic videos for a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company. Her employer is developing what they hope will be the first Viagra drug for women that wins FDA approval to treat a new disease: Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). Liz gains permission to film the company for her own documentary. Initially, she plans to create a movie about science and pleasure but she soon begins to suspect that her employer, along with a cadre of other medical companies, might be trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of billion dollar profits. ORGASM INC. is a powerful look inside the medical industry and the marketing campaigns that are literally and figuratively reshaping our everyday lives around health, illness, desire — and that ultimate moment: orgasm.

Upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative, ORGASM INC. will change the way you think about sex.

4 Responses to Interview with Orgasm Inc. director Liz Canner plus what I’ve learned from the documentary

  1. Sam Chapman says:

    Dr. Laura Berman is the top professional in her field. This attempt to cut her down will fall on deaf ears as it should.

  2. kempton says:

    Dear Sam,

    One of the very important issue explored by the documentary is that some “experts” (Phds, MDs, or TV/movie personalities) decide to promote pharmaceutical products without declaring their financial ties with the drug companies. I hope you see the non-disclosure of these financial ties suspicious as I do.

    Now, call me old school. Since you are defending Dr. Laura Berman as if you are a citizen with no axes to grind, I wonder if people will feel the same if they discover your comment was left by a public relations company where Dr. Laura Berman is the number one client on its client list?

    For readers interested to learn more about Dr. Jennifer Berman, the claim in the documentary is based on this detailed LA Times article “Dr. Berman’s Sex Rx”.

  3. Shannon says:

    I just randomly landed on this post but thought I’d mention that:

    – your original post mentions Dr. Laura Berman but links to an article about Dr. Jennifer Berman.

    – Sam Chapman is Dr. Laura Berman’s husband in addition to heading up the company.

  4. kempton says:

    Thanks Shannon. I have made a clarification that the LA Times article talks about Dr. Jennifer Berman of the Berman sisters specifically.

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