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The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis Paperback – September 28, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a wave of books celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jonas Salk's polio vaccine, Offit's troubling account is the first to focus on a largely forgotten aspect—one with negative repercussions 50 years later. In a nuanced examination of a complex story, Offit, a professor of pediatrics and expert in infectious diseases, relates how Cutter Laboratories, one of several pharmaceutical companies licensed to produce Salk's killed-virus vaccine, shipped many lots of vaccine containing live virus, creating a mini polio epidemic: 40,000 children became ill, 200 were permanently paralyzed, 10 died. Offit carefully examines how Cutter was and was not responsible: tests for detecting live virus at the time were simply not sensitive enough, but Cutter departed from Salk's safe production protocols. And while the company knew there was a problem, it failed to notify the government's oversight agency. Cutter faced costly lawsuits that have resulted, according to Offit, in today's vaccine crisis: shortages (think of last year's flu vaccine) due to pharmaceutical companies' unwillingness to risk testing and producing vaccines and face possible litigation. In another example of the law of unintended consequences, Offit shows how "the Cutter Incident" led Salk's vaccine to be replaced by a less safe one: Sabin's live-virus vaccine. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Pointing to recent shortages of flu and several childhood-disease vaccines as well as the dearth of new vaccines, Offit says that pharmaceutical companies are staying away from vaccine research and production in droves. He lays responsibility for this lamentable situation on the outcome of a court battle now 50 years old and the subsequent snowballing of legal and legislative reactions. Beginning with a tragic 1955 error at Cutter Laboratories--one of the first companies producing the Salk polio vaccine--that caused polio in thousands, Offit maps the way the courts have handled pharmaceutical liability, the way juries have awarded damages, the federal Vaccines for Children Program and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and other influences on vaccine development. Those trends and agencies have so inflated the costs and risks relative to probable profits that vaccine production has been discouraged. Offit concludes that, because the U.S. has made risks high and profits negligible, many more children will suffer illnesses that can be prevented. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126051
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul A. Offit, M.D., is Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. An expert in the field of vaccines, he is a recipient of many awards, including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School; the Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development from the Infectious Disease Society of America; and a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health. His books include the recent Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. Visit his website at www.paul-offit.com.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Quinn Thornton on August 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
While some may find this book too 'pro-pharma', I found this book spot-on. The public wants 100% safe, inexpensive, readily available drugs and vaccines. This book explains why this isn't going to happen--at least, not until the trial lawyers are reined in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carleen Lane on January 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dr. Offit has excellent books. If you are old enough to remember the abject fear during the polio epidemics, this is the book for you. We have not had a disease attacking people by such large numbers for a long time. It was a race against time and that is why the Cutter Incident happened. Too many people stirring the pot to get a vaccine in a hurry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Neeleman on July 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is very well written, it explains all scientific jargon to those who don't work in this area without becoming boring for those who do. Furthermore it is written like a detective; very entertaining!

A must read for those who work in the vaccine field, a great book for others
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Ramos on March 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not surprised why there are a limited of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines. Starting reading this book after the NECC tragedy. Maybe compounding regulations are too lenient. Great book, definitely recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MSB on June 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Could not put it down. Have read it several times already. Great overview of a tremendous historical race to eradicate polio and what went wrong with it and how this race has shaped pharma, the FDA and US litigation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Todd Reighter on November 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Fabulously written, I couldn't put it down!

This book ends by explaining why the US healthcare system is so screwed up. The courts finding Cutter was not negligent but still responsible. This is the creator of 1-800-BAD-DRUG.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Charles on October 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for an assignment. I enjoyed most of it but the author went to so many details that I got tired of reading it for a little while. but he does a great job retelling everything that happened
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Berk on April 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Purchased new, received quickly and in good condition, would recommend seller again.
The book itself was very fascinating. I had to read it as part of a class but was pleasantly surprised with this one.
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