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Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine Hardcover – September 21, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Abramson, Americans are overmedicated and overmedicalized as a result of the commercialization of health care. Falling prey to marketing campaigns, we demand unnecessary and expensive drugs and procedures, believing they constitute the best possible medical care. Wrong, says Abramson: though more post–heart attack procedures are performed in the U.S. than in Canada, one-year survival rates are the same. Similarly, notes Abramson, a former family practitioner who teaches at Harvard Medical School, we spend more on high-tech neonatology than other Western countries but have a higher infant-mortality rate because of inattention to low-tech prenatal care. Abramson deconstructs the scientific sleight of hand in presenting clinical trial results that leads to the routine prescription of pricey cholesterol-lowering drugs even when their effectiveness has not been proven; he examines what he calls "supply-sensitive medical services"—the near-automatic use of medical technologies, such as cardiac catheterization, less because they are needed than because they are available. Abramson's bottom line: "More care doesn't necessarily mean better care." Arguing firmly that doctors should focus more on lifestyle changes to improve health, Abramson seems less credible when he writes off depression as "exercise-deficiency disease" and disposes of cancer in little more than a page. Still, he makes a powerful and coherent case that American medicine has gone badly astray and needs a new paradigm—one untainted by profits.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Enlightening.” (Washington Post Book World)

“A powerful and coherent case that American medicine has gone badly astray.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Abramson’s book will have you rethinking your relationship with your doctor and your health.” (The Oregonian (Portland))

“Before you see a doctor, you should read this book.” (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation)

“A clear and concise explanation of how American medicine has gone astray...a must read for both patients and doctors.” (Herbert Benson, MD, author of The Relaxation Response and The Breakout Principle)

“Fulfills the criteria for high quality in health services: the right diagnosis and the right prescription at the right time.” (Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, University Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University & Medical Institutions)

“Acompelling and well-documented analysis... a book every American should read.” (Elliott Fisher, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School)

“Essential for all those who want to intelligently reclaim responsibility for their own health.” (Cheryl Richardson, author of Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers and Stand Up for Your Life)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060568526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060568528
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have been a physician for 10 years. I have seen my profession gradually being taken over by the pharmaceutical industry. I have seen countless patients harmed - alas even killed - by drug reactions and polypharmacy.

I have sat and listened to countless drug representative presentations that were outright falsehoods and misrepresentations. It has been months - maybe even years that I have had available to me a medical education conference that was not somehow tainted by drug company money and therefore propaganda.

I have repeatedly had patients in my office begging me for medication that they do not need. They want it simply because it was on TV News last night - and came with a promise of metaphysical salvation. I spend much time every day dissuading patients from taking medication they simply do not need - indeed may even cause real medical problems.

The issues that are discussed in this book are very very real - and the scary part is I do not see my fellow physicians doing a single thing to address these huge problems.

Dr. Abramson - thank you for hopefully what will be the opening salvo in a very important battle.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Abramson's book concerns the influence that pharmaceutical companies have on physicians' knowledge. Chapter by chapter, he discusses the top selling medications prescribed in America and explains, in detail, all of the clinical trials that support the use of the medications. Then, he explains how the clinical trials were conducted (usually with the pharmaceutical companies preferred methods) and what the statistics behind the clinical trials REALLY support.

As a consumer who believed until recently was an "informed consumer," I was shocked to discover that the information I was getting on the National Institute for Health's website "pubmed.org" was less than definitive when it came to clinical trials. With Dr. Abramson's book, I now understand that those clinical trials, which most doctors depend on in helping them treat their patients are wildly distorted.

I applaud Dr. Abramson for writing this book. Just as Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring served as a catalyst for supporting changes in how we respect our environment, physicians, consumers and politicians should read this book and take action to protect our nation's health.

I think before another advertisement for a medication is splashed before our televisions, computers and magazines, there should be a warning box that reads "This medication may be dangerous to your health, so discuss alternatives with your doctor before trying it!"

This book was the most important book that I've read in the last few years and I thank Dr. Abramson for taking the time to write it and making it "user friendly."
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Format: Hardcover
As a community health nurse, I have been observing the increasing commercialization of medicine and medical knowledge over the past decade. Dr. Abramson has hit the nail on the head - while the cost of health care continues to rise, the quality of the care and the outcomes have not increased. It is a travesty that the elderly and patients suffering from chronic conditions are being hoodwinked into choosing between food and pills , and that we are not focusing on lifestyle changes that will enhance and prolong the quality of life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the news this morning (November 20, 2004): The Associated Press reports that shares in pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca PLC and GlaxoSmithKline PLC dropped after safety concerns over the anti-cholesterol drug, Crestor, and asthma drug, Serevent, were raised. For those who have read Dr. Abramson's book, Overdosed in America, safety concerns with Crestor will come as no surprise.

Dr. Abramson has done a more than credible job of researching the current state of medical care in the United States (taking three years away from his private practice to do so). Examining the links between emphasis on lowering cholesterol and drug company profits is just one area of current American medical care he tackles.

There are those who will argue that his common-sense approach to reducing health care costs while, at the same time, increasing American health, is too simple to be worthwhile. However, Dr. Abramson's recommendations are based on solid research findings. Sometimes, answers can be simple.

Overdosed America is an important book backed up by Dr. Abramson's painstaking research. Read it to save your wealth. Read it to save your health.

December Update:

I am astonished to see such highly negative reviews of Overdosed America. Are these the same folk who would never buy an automobile or vacuum without checking Consumers' ratings?

Surely, they have failed to read the book carefully or they could not suggest that much valuable research will be lost if we become actively involved in our own medicine and related pharmaceuticals instead of passive consumers of whatever latest pill that's being pushed.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Abramson became frustrated with patients who already "knew" what they needed via drug company ads, and "retreated" to teaching at Harvard Medical School. His personal experience and ability to carefully review medical research combine to produce an excellent book.

Much of what Abramson reports involves the drug industry. He gives specific examples where published drug studies focus on recipients non-representative of typical (target) users - eg. younger, and less prone to adverse reactions. Sometimes the reported data show (if one has the time to read carefully) that the true targets do WORSE with the medication, and this finding is obscured by positive results with the more numerous (atypical) younger selected test patients.

Other medical research reporting ploys utilized by drug companies include: 1)reporting initially positive results, while omitting adverse subsequent outcomes, 2)combining serious (when increased) and minor (when decreased) adverse event numbers to cover up problems, 3)comparing a strong dose of a new medicine with an inappropriate weak dose, comparing a new drug with a placebo, instead of existing efficacious drugs, 4)not reporting negative drug trials, 5)failing to point out that lifestyle changes often provide much better results than drugs, and 6)pulling advertising from medical journals running unfavorable articles.

The result is typically increased cost of care, and less than ideal results. Sometimes, however, it is much worse. Dr. Abramson reports that anti-arrhythmic drugs (reduce dangerous rapid heartbeat) were found to INCREASE death rates in '80 - however, the results were not published until '93, resulting in an estimated 20-75,000 extra deaths/year.

How are the drug companies able to do this?
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