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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Books: Drug Truths

Large pharma gets a pretty hard time in the press, and it would be fair to say that the public's impression of the industry is negative at the current time, and it is difficult to see how this will change in the short to medium term. This is a shame, and probably largely undeserved - a lot of scientists have a lot of pride in their work and the companies they work for (as of course do salespeople, facilties, manufacturing staff, etc.). However, Health, Politics and Money are a heady and potent mix, as the current discussions over 'Obama's' healthcare reforms show.

Let's be clear, this book is a polemic, and all the better for it!

It addresses and challenges a series of widespread media myths about drug discovery ('most drugs are discovered in academic labs with public money', 'large pharma aren't interested in diseases from the third world', 'they're evil manipulative baby snatchers', ad nauseum). The book does this well (actually, not the last one, I made it up, for impact), with data, factual arguments, and a terse but pacy and readable style. It's written by John LaMattina, ex R&D chief of Pfizer, and there are many examples and stories drawn from Pfizer's history that don't normally make the light of day. The other notable thing in the book is the passion that comes across, the excitement of discovery, the disappointment of setbacks, and the drive of scientists trying to make a difference to healthcare.

As usual, it is also well worth reading alternate opinions in order to form a well balanced view (for example, the similarly excellent book by Marcia Angell, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It - I guess that title gives away the authors opinion pretty clearly.

%A J. LaMattina
%T Drug Truths
%I Wiley
%D 2009
%O ISBN 978-0470393185

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