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Blockbuster Drugs: The Rise and Decline of the Pharmaceutical Industryby Jie Jack Li
Synopses & Reviews
Blockbuster drugs-each of which generates more than a billion dollars a year in revenue-have revolutionized the industry since the early 1980s, when sales of Tagamet alone transformed a minor Philadelphia-based firm into the world's ninth-largest pharmaceutical company. In Blockbuster Drugs, Jie Jack Li tells the fascinating stories behind the discovery and development of these highly lucrative medicines, while also exploring the tumult the industry now faces as the "patent cliff" nears.
Having spent most of his career in drug research and development, Li brings an insider's eye to the narrative as he recounts the tales of discovery behind such drugs as Tagamet, Zantac, Claritin, Prilosec, Nexium, Serouquel, Plavix, and Ambien. As he discusses each breakthrough, Li also shows that scientific research is filled with human drama-serendipitous discoveries, sudden insights, tense confrontations. For instance, the author tells of James Black, who persisted in the research that led to Tagamet-and that would ultimately win him a Nobel Prize-despite pressure from top executives to pursue "more profitable" work. The book shows how research behind Prilosec combined creativity, international cooperation, and luck-the turning point being a chance encounter of American and Swedish scientists at a conference in Uppsala. There are also tales of fabulous rewards--George Rieveschl, the chemist who invented Benadryl, made a fortune on royalties-and of unjust desserts. Finally, Li shows that for the world's largest prescription drug manufacturers, recent years have been harrowing, as many popular drugs have come off patent in the U.S. market, meaning hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Anyone who enjoys tales of scientific discovery, or is curious about the history behind the prescriptions they take, or wants a revealing inside look at the pharmaceutical industry will find this book well worth reading.
"Li (Laughing Gas, Viagra and Lipitor: The Human Stories Behind the Drugs We Use) surveys Big Pharma's 'golden age' with a nostalgic yet thoughtful history of the science and personalities behind drugs that changed the lives of countless patients while making billions of dollars for the companies that brought them to market. The author examines five classes of blockbusters that gave Big Pharma both esteem and fortunes: from Tagament and Prilosec for peptic ulcers to blockbuster allergy treatments such as Benadryl and Claritin, to blood thinners that refined old-line heparin, to the modern conquest of pain with drugs descended from opium — 'one of the first medicines for man.' Li also engagingly relates the tales of the human conflict often involved with discovery, like a precipitous one-year drop in profits that resulted from a feud between an American drug company and one of its Canadian counterparts. Drug discovery is now getting more attention from academia as new products wane, Li notes, but he decries Big Pharma's 'merger mania' and its tarnished reputation, especially following Merck's abrupt withdrawal of anti-inflammatory Vioxx because it led to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes among those taking it. Nevertheless, Li delights in the 'creativity, serendipity and perseverance' of big drug discoveries — lessons he hopes may prompt a renaissance in the industry." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
During much of the nineteenth century, physicians and pharmacists alike considered medical patenting and the use of trademarks by drug manufacturers unethical forms of monopoly; physicians who prescribed patented drugs could be, and were, ostracized from the medical community. In the decades following the Civil War, however, complex changes in patent and trademark law intersected with the changing sensibilities of both physicians and pharmacists to make intellectual property rights in drug manufacturing scientifically and ethically legitimate. By World War I, patented and trademarked drugs had become essential to the practice of good medicine, aiding in the rise of the American pharmaceutical industry and forever altering the course of medicine.
Drawing on a wealth of previously unused archival material, Medical Monopoly combines legal, medical, and business history to offer a sweeping new interpretation of the origins of the complex and often troubling relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and medical practice today. Joseph M. Gabriel provides the first detailed history of patent and trademark law as it relates to the nineteenth-century pharmaceutical industry as well as a unique interpretation of medical ethics, therapeutic reform, and the efforts to regulate the market in pharmaceuticals before World War I. His book will be of interest not only to historians of medicine and science and intellectual property scholars but also to anyone following contemporary debates about the pharmaceutical industry, the patenting of scientific discoveries, and the role of advertising in the marketplace.
For the world's largest prescription drug manufacturers, the last few years have been a harrowing time. Recently, Pfizer's Lipitor, GlaxoSmithKline's Advair, AstraZeneca's Seroquel, and Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Plavix all came off patent in the crucial U.S. market. This so-called "patent cliff" meant hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue and has pharmaceutical developers scrambling to create new drugs and litigating to extend current patent protections.
Having spent most of his career in drug discovery in "big pharma," Dr. Li now delivers an insider's account of how the drug industry ascended to its plateau and explores the nature of the turmoil it faces in the coming years. He begins with a survey of the landscape before "blockbuster drugs," and proceeds to describe how those drugs were discovered and subsequently became integral to the business models of large pharmaceutical companies. For example, in early 1980s, Tagamet, the first "blockbuster drug," transformed a minor Philadelphia-based drug maker named SmithKline and French into the world's ninth-largest pharmaceutical company in terms of sales. The project that delivered Tagamet was nearly terminated several times because research efforts begun in 1964 produced no apparent results within the first eleven years. Similar stories accompany the discovery and development of now-ubiquitous prescription drugs, among them Claritin, Prilosec, Nexium, Plavix, and Ambien.
These stories, and the facets of the pharmaceutical industry that they reveal, can teach us valuable lessons and reveal many crucial aspects about the future landscape of drug discovery. As always, Dr. Li writes in a readable style and intersperses fascinating stories of scientific discovery with engaging human drama.
About the Author
Jie Jack Li was a drug discovery chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. He is the author of Triumph of the Heart: The Story of Statins (Oxford, 2009), Modern Organic Synthesis in the Laboratory (Oxford, 2007), and Laughing Gas, Viagra, and Lipitor: The Human Stories Behind the Drugs We Use (Oxford, 2006).
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Before the Age of Blockbuster Drugs
Chapter 2 The Beginning of an Era - The First Blockbuster Drug Tagamet
Chapter 3 More Blockbuster Drugs for Ulcer
Chapter 4 Antihistamines as Allergy Medicines
Chapter 5 Blood Thinners, From Heparin to Plavix
Chapter 6 Conquest of Pain--Analgesics: from Morphine to Lyrica
Chapter 7 Lessons
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