There are a lot of publications and books out there about the pharmaceutical industry. Many of these can be quite negative in their outlook, particularly in relation to the American drug industry which has not had the best press in years gone by.
Below I have listed 4 of my favourite published exposés on the pharmaceuticals industry and why I think they are worth reading.
Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is well known to scientists for her cells taken from cervical cancer. In her life, she was a poor Southern tobacco farm hand who worked to tend to the same land as her slave ancestors. However, her cells have created massive advances in the drug industry. However, they were taken without her knowledge and without adequate financial recognition.
HeLa cells were instrumental in creating the polio vaccine. Her cells have uncovered many secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects. They have also helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilisation, cloning, and gene mapping. Her cells have been bought and sold by the billions. All this and yet, Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.
In 1951, Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During the biopsy, cell samples were taken from Lacks and given to a researcher. Henrietta’s cancer spread wildly, and she was dead within a year. But her cells turned out to be an incredible discovery because they continued growing at a very fast rate.
Rebecca Skloot has written this fascinating book which outlines exactly why Henrietta’s cells were so important and why her contribution to medicine went unrecognised for decades.
This book starts by suggesting that medicine is broken. We like to imagine that it’s based on evidence and the results of fair tests, but in reality, those tests are often miraculously broken. We like to imagine that doctors are familiar with the research literature surrounding a drug, when sadly much of the research is hidden by drug companies.
Goldacre has a way of making complex science subjects accessible to the wider public. What he reveals is frankly quite frightening. He describes the way that the industry hides a large majority of the trial data, the way that legislation requiring data to be published is ignored by many, and in the EU it is still secret in some cases.
Using examples such as Vioxx, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, Celebrex, and anti-depressants — ‘Overdosed America’ describes how at the heart of the current crisis in American medicine lies the commercialisation of medical knowledge.
I knew that America’s medical system was slightly broken, but I didn’t think that it was all that bad. The information here is a little dated now, but I still see so much of it going on in health care, at least from my perspective (I am not an insider).
Currently, Americans spend close to $200 billion each year on prescription drugs. As Dr. Angell powerfully describes here in her book, claims that high drug prices are necessary to fund research and development are unfounded. The truth instead is that drug companies funnel the bulk of their resources into the marketing of products which actually have questionable benefits. Meanwhile, as profits continue to grow exponentially, the drug companies brazenly use their wealth and power to push their agenda through government.
This book is frankly, indispensable. Angell exposes the lies of the big pharmaceutical companies use to justify the overpriced drugs they sell.
Remember: it’s importance to trust the supplier of your medication before you take it. My thanks go to Pharmacy Seekers who helped me to write this post. They helped answer my questions about the authenticity of drug providers. Pharmacy Seekers offer pharmacy sales and finance for pharmacy businesses to ensure that they are the most authentic and sustainable businesses that they can be.