Book Cover

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.

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