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The Truth about the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do about Itby Marcia Angell
Synopses & Reviews
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 they are; 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.
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.
"In what should serve as the Fast Food Nation of the drug industry, 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. Agent, Martel Agency. (On sale Aug. 24) Forecast: Time called Angell one of the 25 most influential Americans, and with the high cost of drugs making front-page news, her book should find a receptive audience." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n impassioned expose....Every registered voter should read this book; highly recommended." Library Journal
About the Author
Former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and now a member of Harvard Medical School's Department of Social Medicine, Marcia Angell is a nationally recognized authority in the field of health policy and medical ethics and an outspoken critic of the health care system. Time magazine named her one of the twenty-five most influential people in America. Dr. Angell is the author of Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case.
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