The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It
Dr. Marcia Angell
Softcover: 319 pages
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Many Americans have wondered why prescription drugs have become so expensive while advertising for those drugs seems to grow exponentially. This book has some answers.
"The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It, by Marcia Angell, a former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, provides the broadest overview and the most thorough context. Her voice is always authoritative, sometimes testy and often brimming with anger and frustration at what she views as drug-company shenanigans." - David Tuller - The Washington Post
During her two decades at The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell had a front-row seat on the appalling spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies stray from their original mission of discovering and manufacturing useful drugs and instead become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes. She saw them gain nearly limitless influence over medical research, education, and how doctors do their jobs. She sympathized as the American public, particularly the elderly, struggled and increasingly failed to meet spiraling prescription drug prices. Now, in this bold, hard-hitting new book, Dr. Angell exposes the shocking truth of what the pharmaceutical industry has become-and argues for essential, long-overdue change.
Currently Americans spend a staggering $200 billion each year on prescription drugs. As Dr. Angell powerfully demonstrates, claims that high drug prices are necessary to fund research and development are unfounded: The truth is that drug companies funnel the bulk of their resources into the marketing of products of dubious benefit. Meanwhile, as profits soar, the companies brazenly use their wealth and power to push their agenda through Congress, the FDA, and academic medical centers.
Zeroing in on hugely successful drugs like AZT (the first drug to treat HIV/AIDS), Taxol (the best-selling cancer drug in history), and the blockbuster allergy drug Claritin, Dr. Angell demonstrates exactly how new products are brought to market. Drug companies, she shows, routinely rely on publicly funded institutions for their basic research; they rig clinical trials to make their products look better than theyare; and they use their legions of lawyers to stretch out government-granted exclusive marketing rights for years. They also flood the market with copycat drugs that cost a lot more than the drugs they mimic but are no more effective.
Meanwhile, most of the R & D work is done by colleges and universities funded by the government. There are also problems with the drugs themselves. The market is filled with remarkably similar drugs to treat depression and high cholesterol while potentially life-saving medicines for diseases afflicting third-world countries are discontinued because they aren't profitable.
The American pharmaceutical industry needs to be saved, mainly from itself, and Dr. Angell proposes a program of vital reforms, which includes restoring impartiality to clinical research and severing the ties between drug companies and medical education. Written with fierce passion and substantiated with in-depth research, The Truth About the Drug Companies is a searing indictment of an industry that has spun out of control.
The prognosis for reform is a grim one. But for anyone who's paid a pharmacy bill, The Truth About the Drug Companies is a fascinating read. And a must read for citizens with a hankering to learn more and do more to reform our healthcare system.
"Her new book is a scorching indictment of drug companies and their research and business practices." - Janet Maslin - The New York Times
"...Angell, former editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, presents a searing indictment of 'big pharma' as corrupt and corrupting: of Congress, through huge campaign contributions; of the FDA, which is funded in part by the very companies it oversees; and, perhaps most shocking, of members of the medical profession and its institutions. Angell delineates how the drug giants, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, pay physicians to prescribe their products with gifts, junkets and marketing programs disguised as 'professional education.' According to Angell, the cost of marketing, both to physicians and consumers, far outweighs expenditures on research and development, though drug makers invoke R&D as the reason drug prices are so high. In fact, says Angell, with combined 2002 profits of $35.9 billion for the Fortune 500's top 10 drug companies, the drug industry is America's most profitable by far, thanks to disproportionately high prices, generous tax breaks and manipulation of patents to extend exclusive marketing rights to blockbuster drugs like Prozac and Claritin. Angell mounts a powerful case (and offers specific suggestions) for reform of this essential industry—a case worth bearing in mind as 'big pharma' continues to oppose importing cheaper drugs from Canada." - Publishers Weekly
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