Rousing and readable: sure to brings smiles at the FDA and howls of protest from industry lobbyists.

PROTECTING AMERICA’S HEALTH

THE FDA, BUSINESS, AND ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF REGULATION

Chicanery, greed, politics, battles won and lost: welcome to the Food and Drug Administration.

New York Times science reporter Hilts (Memory’s Ghost, 1998, etc.) has no doubts about the need for an independent FDA to protect the public’s health, and he has no qualms about identifying the forces that have attempted to thwart its mission. From passage of the Food and Drug Act of 1906, shortly after Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle aroused public outrage over the meatpacking industry, to passage of the Kefauver-Harris amendments in 1962, spurred by furor over the thalidomide disaster, Hilts shows how commerce, politics, and events have shaped the evolving role of the FDA. Born in the Progressive Era as the US Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Chemistry but hobbled by minimal budgets and authority, the FDA had little effectiveness until the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, sparked by public concern over children’s deaths caused by sulfanilamide, gave it the job of checking drugs before they went to market. Hilts examines the growth of the giant pharmaceutical industry, the rise of a conservative movement opposed to government regulation, and the policies and styles of FDA commissioners. He shows how controlled scientific studies became the standard for determining a drug’s safety and effectiveness and how the often-beleaguered agency’s professionalism was established. Among the many battles he recounts were those over package-insert information, nutrition labeling on processed foods, silicone breast implants, development of AIDS drugs, and recall of drugs hazardous to health but profitable to pharmaceutical companies. Common sense, says Hilts, demands that businesses, whose first job is profits, be countered by a regulatory agency whose first job is public safety. As imperfect as the FDA is, he states, duly noting the payoff scandals of the late 1980s, its work remains essential.

Rousing and readable: sure to brings smiles at the FDA and howls of protest from industry lobbyists.

Pub Date: April 2, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-40466-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

A SHORT GUIDE TO A LONG LIFE

In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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