An urgent, alarming work of health reporting that will make you question every drug in your medicine cabinet.

BOTTLE OF LIES

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE GENERIC DRUG BOOM

An eye-opening exposé on generic drugs.

Given the greed of pharmaceutical companies, writes investigative journalist Eban (Dangerous Doses: How Counterfeiters Are Contaminating America's Drug Supply, 2005), cheap generics are essential to money-strapped consumers—and that just may be a death sentence. There are many players and levels in this excellent book, a solid mix of the history of generic drugs, whistleblower tale, and pharmaceutical detective story. The whistleblower in question is a young executive and systems engineer from India, lured home after being educated in the United States to work for a huge pharmacological concern that specializes in making generic drugs. There’s a fortune to be made there, Eban writes, especially for the first to market, who can enjoy a brief monopoly. The margins are further improved by eliminating key steps in the quality-control process—and then cooking the books when investigators from the Food and Drug Administration come to inspect. The executive in question sounded the alarm, his charge backed by on-the-ground evidence from an FDA investigator. However, he faced prosecution, not least on the part of the FDA and U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein. “My reporting,” writes Eban early on, “led me into a web of global deception”—and, she makes clear throughout this long but tightly narrated book, that deception may well prove fatal to medical consumers. This is especially true in the developing world, she writes, for if substandard drugs are regularly shipped from plants in India, China, and elsewhere to the U.S. and Europe, the really ineffective, dangerous stuff is headed for markets in Africa, South America, and Asia: EpiPens, AIDS cocktails, cures that may turn out to be poisons. For all the efforts of that FDA inspector, writes the author, the new antiregulatory FDA now gives foreign companies advance warning of inspections, allowing the deception to grow and flourish as suspect drugs continue to roll in, "including a crucial chemotherapy drug for treating leukemia and breast and ovarian cancers.”

An urgent, alarming work of health reporting that will make you question every drug in your medicine cabinet.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-233878-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2019

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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