cover image Adverse Reactions

Adverse Reactions

Thomas Maeder. William Morrow & Company, $27.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11682-8

``No drug is completely safe,'' cautions medical writer Meader ( Children of Psychiatrists ) in introducing this involving, instructive ``biography'' of one still-controversial drug, Chloromycetin, a highly profitable ``miracle'' antibiotic released in 1949 and administered to some 40 million Americans in the 1950s for a wide spectrum of infections ranging from dysentery to mononucleosis. Within three years, it became clear that the drug caused aplastic anemia, often fatal, in a small proportion of those taking it, and an investigation was launched by the FDA. Meader pursues the story of the drug's development, tracking its widely accepted efficacy and examining Parke-Davis's marketing campaigns; he also interviewed physicians, medical researchers and personnel of drug manufacturers and federal agencies, along with the drug's victims and their relatives. Congressional hearings about misleading promotions and inadequate warnings to physicians of the drug's danger contributed to the passage in 1962 of the Kefauver-Harris Amendments instituting tighter drug regulation. (Apr.)