NO POPES IN HEAVEN by Hal  Malchow


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A political drama about a gruesome legislative fight over approval of a popular new drug.

Colleen Keegan has been named the new CEO of major pharmaceutical company Miradol, the third-largest pharmaceutical company in the world. She faces a steep uphill climb after a couple of failed drug trials that drained the corporation’s coffers and wounded its reputation. However, she believes that a new drug in the works, which promises to significantly extend the average human life span, will catapult Miradol back to prosperity. The new product, Juventel, will require years of costly trials before it can be brought to market, so Keegan chooses to make an end run around the slow Food and Drug Administration approval process and classify it “off-label” as an ameliorative for a skin condition. And although such drugs can’t normally be advertised on television legally, her lawyer, Jake Siskoff, pushes legislation that would permit it. “The Life Bill,” as it comes to be known, becomes exceedingly popular as demand for Juventel skyrockets, and a political war over its merits is angrily waged in public. Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Hazeldine of Indiana, the new speaker of the House, attempts to get the bill through, adding a stipulation that allows Medicare to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies—a blow to the industry. But Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Kelley of Tennessee, a congressional veteran, stubbornly opposes the bill as a myopic dismissal of safety protocols. Author Malchow’s (The Dragon and the Firefly, 2014, etc.) quarter-century of experience as a political consultant is impossible to miss, as he’s clearly an expert on the dark machinations of American political life; his story is a kind of brutally realistic civics lesson. However, the plot inches forward at a tediously languid pace, and new characters are introduced too quickly for readers to develop any sustained interest in them. Also, some of the plot is dramatically improbable or even inexplicable; for instance, it simply doesn’t make sense that Keegan would risk outsourcing a social media campaign for Juventel to the Russian government. Are there really no reliable—and safer—options available in the United States?

An edifying tale of the Beltway that fails to entertain.

Page count: 251pp
Publisher: Double M
Program: Kirkus Indie
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