STRONG MEDICINE by Arthur Hailey
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STRONG MEDICINE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

No, not a doctor/hospital novel--but a Hailey overview of the pharmaceuticals industry, as seen through the very noble career (1957-1985) of maverick/rebel company-woman Celia Jordan. Celia is one of the industry's few female ""detail men""--salespeople--when she marries young Dr. Andrew Jordan in 1957: they meet and fall in love when Celia (pushy) helps Andrew (skeptical) save the life of a dying young woman with Lotromycin, a brand new drug from Felding-Roth. In the decades that follow, however, Celia's--and Hailey's--emphasis will be on the less miraculous aspects of the industry. Thanks to rising exec Celia, Felding-Roth doesn't market Thalidomide in America. She risks her job by publicly calling for ""detail men"" to be more honest and well-informed when hawking their wares to doctors. Put in charge of over-the-counter drugs, she disapproves of hyped-up placebos--but comes up with brilliant ad campaigns. (In Harley's occasionally awful prose: ""And while Celia and O-T-C were meshed fructiferously, events elsewhere moved on as always--with tragedy, comedy, conflict, nobility, sadness, laughter and human folly. . . ."") She and Andrew have a rare spat--when his hospital colleague turns out to be a pill-popping addict/madman. . . and when she relaxes her ethical standards in dealing with lax governments in South America. (Is the drug industry--with its free samples galore--partly to blame for M.D. addicts?) Then, in the 1970s, Celia takes over the research division: she sets up a new lab in England (and has her one extramarital fling with young Dr. Martin Peat-Smith); she spars with bitter, obsessed US researcher Vincent Lord; she debates the profit-vs.-progress research issues, e.g. the money poured into development of ""me-too"" drugs. And the final chapters revolve around two ill-fated drugs: a morning-sickness cure called Montayne (which might cause mental retardation) leads to Celia's high-minded resignation and the suicide of her beloved mentor; then, when Celia has returned to head the company, another false panacea leads to deaths, scandal, and congressional investigation. (Ruthless researcher Victor bribed an FDA official.) Still, the conclusion is upbeat: ""Successful, useful drugs outnumber losers."" And, while some readers will be disappointed by the lack of action and personality (the Celia/Andrew marriage is a heavy dose of glucose), there's a reasonably balanced viewpoint here, a steady parade of issues, and a fair measure of nuts-and-bolts information--sure to please those who relished the industrial-primer approach in Wheels, Overload, and The Moneychangers.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1984
ISBN: 1423371518
Publisher: Doubleday