The portrait that the film paints of the UK Diplomatic Service and the global pharmaceutical industry is not a pretty one. You can well imagine the Foreign Office's focus on trade leading to some ethically dubious decisions, and with author John Le Carré's years of diplomatic experience his portrayal of amoral ministers and conniving embassy staff does not seem entirely fanciful. The use of Africans as expendable subjects in drug trials sounds horrific, but is based on documented evidence.
Big Pharma's worldwide drive for stronger patent law has had an equally devastating effect on the lives of those in the developing world. As Le Carré notes in a postscript to the film:
Nobody in this story, and no outfit or corporation, thank God, is based upon an actual person or outfit in the real world. But I can tell you this; as my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realise that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard.