Our Daily Meds

Melody Petersen, Author . Crichton/FSG $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-22827-9

Drug companies have institutionalized deception,” said a former pharmaceutical executive at a 1990 Senate hearing. And former New York Times reporter Petersen details these deceptions with information that will be startling even to those who closely follow the news on big pharma. Her subtitle, “How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs,” is most effectively illustrated in a chapter detailing Parke-Davis’s aggressive marketing of the epilepsy drug Neurontin “for everything,” in blatant disregard of regulations against promoting drugs for uses not approved by the FDA. Such reporting, rather than style or analysis, is Petersen’s strength. Much of what she recounts—such as the glut of copycat drugs like antacids, and marketers’ lavish wining and dining of doctors—has been covered in books by others, like Marcia Angell. But Petersen fleshes out these issues and names prominent doctors who, she says, are on the take. She is particularly strong on the ghostwriting of medical journal articles by advertising agencies. She also covers less familiar matters, like the environmental impact of drug residues in water. There are quibbles; for instance, Petersen accepts without examination the bromide that most people take prescription drugs as a “quick fix.” But she ends with tough, sound suggestions for reforms to make the pharmaceutical industry honest and to protect consumers. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-312-42825-9
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4299-4403-8
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