cover image Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs

Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs

Stephen M. Fried. Bantam Books, $24.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10383-0

Five years ago, Fried's wife, after taking an antibiotic for a minor urinary tract infection, developed such side effects as delirium, visual distortions and insomnia, followed by a debilitating manic-depressive illness that the prescription drug apparently triggered. This report on the often lethal hazards of over-the-counter and prescription medications intertwines Fried's personal story of coping with his wife's condition and an informal, scattershot probe into the drug development and approval process, based on interviews with doctors, FDA officials, consumer advocates, neuroscientists, pharmaceutical executives and sales reps, lawyers and pharmacologists. By turns tedious and revealing, his labyrinthine investigation is sprinkled with useful suggestions for revamping U.S. drug testing and regulatory procedures. Freelance writer Fried includes cases involving adverse reactions to heart medicines, anti-inflammatory and psychiatric drugs, skin creams, anti-asthmatics and AIDS medications. He highlights the laxity of safety standards regarding the prescribing of drugs for children and pregnant women. An appendix offers guidelines for consumers on assessing potential drug dangers, and dealing with doctors and pharmacists. (Apr.)