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Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Lives, Minds, and Bodies Hardcover – October 7, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0618393138 ISBN-10: 0618393137 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618393137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618393138
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,459,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Critser, almost half of all Americans use a prescription drug daily; one in six take three or more. What are the possible consequences of the staggering recent growth in the use of such drugs? Journalist Critser (Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World) lays out the cautionary facts in exquisite detail. The saga of big pharma gives new meaning to the term "slippery slope": none of it could have happened, he says, absent Reaganite deregulatory fervor, which led to the taking of several bold risks, most of which were perceived in the 1980s, even by drug makers, to be "downright dangerous"—including direct-to-consumer promotion (DTC) and the advent of off-label marketing—drug manufacturers encouraging doctors to prescribe medications for maladies for which the FDA has not approved their use. Some of this territory about our growing dependence on prescription drugs and the impact of DTC advertising was covered last year by Marcia Angell and others, yet it's a story worth heeding again in the wake of the recent furor over Vioxx. Critser's account is solid, thorough and told with vigor.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics were enthralled—and disturbed—by Critser’s muckraking portrait of the pharmaceutical industry and the overmedicated public it purports to serve. The book is sure to make people think twice the next time they reach into their medicine cabinet. Critser presents compelling evidence that drugs are not adequately tested before they hit the market and that drug companies seem to be inventing ailments that their pills can cure. But the book is not just a big-business exposé. Critser also explores the societal pressures that lead Americans of all ages to turn to pills to fulfill the burdensome expectations they place on themselves. And he uses gentle humor to avoid coming off as excessively alarmist.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Manley VINE VOICE on November 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like many other American's I have taken perscription medicines. Often I have wondered why I am getting the script for the latest drug I have seen on TV when I know other, cheaper drugs have worked in the past. This book really delves into the way drug companies market themselves to the physicians, and then how and why they started marketing to consumers.

I don't know how many of you have sat in doctor's offices waiting for your appointments and have been frustrated when drug company representatives come in to visit the doctor while you wait. Perhaps this has happened to you. I have been amazed as to why going in for something simple you can walk out with several perscriptions. Greg Critser suggests that it is through marketing and giving incentives to physicians this happens. As physicians write more and more perscriptions they are gifted by the drug companies. Once they realized how great that marketing technique worked, we started to see ads directed at consumers.

In their marketing, they have often suggested that some drugs work on symptions that the drug did not intend to treat initially; for example, Paxil for shyness, Prozac for PMS. Doctors can legally perscribe a drug for any reason they want to. Meaning marketing in this way, the drug isn't tested properly, and is being given to patients to test out the drug. In recent years we have had problems is Phen-Phen, and Viaox.

This book is heavily slanted against the drug companies. The book does cast them as a villian, no doubt. What I liked was that it made you think. Perhaps with some knowledge of how the drug business works, a consumer can go in and ask if the drug was specifically developed for what the intent of treatment is. You might even want to learn to ask about alternative and less expensive treatment. It was good, but very biased read.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Clearly, this is a book worthy of the acclaim the author recieved for his previous work. In this critical account(well-researched, but starting with a very biased opinion to begin with) Crister takes a look at how "Big Pharma" has evolved and changed everyone's lives. The early parts of the book focusses on the evolution of the trade group associated with the drug companies, their motivation and objectives, the personalities involved in its growth, and the inter-play with the politicians and regulatory agencies. Much of that discussion is based on the patent laws and their impacts on the drug companies and the patients.

Essentially, the author states a bold premise at the outset of the book - the prescription medication habits of patients is centered around "polymedication" (using multiple medicines to treat the same condition) and overmedication and that it is the fault of the drug companies for creating that scenario. While the observations in the book are perhaps accurate and convincing, it certainly does provide a skewed picture of the operations of the drug companies (no one can dispute the fact that they are for-profit companies trying to increase shareholder value).

Whether you agree with the author's premise or not, the book systematically explains his rationale for his premise, interspersed with some interesting anecdotes regarding advertising, direct-to-consumer marketing, politics, and personalities.

A good (albiet, slightly biased) look at the operations of Big Pharma. At the very least, one can gather excellent information on the politics and marketing mechanisms of Big Pharma and their interactions with the regulatory agencies. A must read for anyone who is a patient (or "consumer" of drug companies!) or an investor in Big Pharma.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. Fineman on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Here, as in his FAT LAND, Critser performs a public service in the best possible format. Major issues like the growth of the drug culture are usually presented with more technical detail than the non-specialist can stand or with lurid alarmism. Here Critser condenses huge amounts of data and first hand research in a prose that is both lucid and interesting. In a country where every other ad is for a drug, each citizen should read this exciting volume.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Mack on December 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Greg Crister, in his new book, Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Lives, Minds, and Bodies, puts forth the notion that "big pharma" has created a nation of pharmaceutical tribes, each with its own unique beliefs, taboos, and brand loyalties. According to Crister, there are 3 such tribes:

1. Tribe of High-Performance Youth: children and adolescents who are medicated for depression, attention deficit disorder, and a range of other psychological and behavioral problems mostly because of "their parents' completely under-standable wish that they perform well in a society of ever increasing demands to perform well, nay, superbly."

2. Tribe of Productivity and Comfort (MiddleYears): those of us at the middle-to-late points in our careers as parents and/or earners who are preprogrammed to consume drugs like Lipitor, Viagra, Prozac, and Prilosec, to "shore up our ability to produce more and better and to relieve discomfit, including the discomfit of having to watch what and how much we eat and drink and of sitting on our duff."

3. Tribe of High-Performance Aging: seniors who take drugs "not only to alleviate the discomfit of aging, but also to extend their lives."

Crister credits Pat Kelly, president of U.S. Pharmaceuticals for Pfizer, for inspiring the idea of consumer tribalism-pharma's need to sell lifestyle, not things. "By conjuring brand tribalism-an intense, interactive, and information-driven promotion of a product and the values it is made to seem to embody-a company can not only gain new customers, but also hold on to the old ones," says Crister.

According to Crister, before big pharmaceutical companies could create these tribes to consume their drugs, they had to become "unbound" from government restrictions.
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More About the Author

Greg Critser is an award-winning writer about medicine, science, food and health. His work has appeared in periodicals ranging from the New York Times to the Times of London, and from Harper's to the New Yorker. He is the author of the best seller Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Houghton Mifflin 2003), and the award-winning Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs are Altering American Minds, Lives and Bodies (Houghton 2005). His new book, Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging, will be published by Random House in January 2010. He has lectured widely at universities and medical schools, and his blog can be found at

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