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Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs Paperback – May 4, 1999
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" [Bitter Pills] could save your life."—San Diego Union-Tribune
"The best popular book I've read on the subject."—The New York Times Book Review
"If you have concerns about drugs your family members have been prescribed or are taking over the counter, Bitter Pills will help make you a more informed consumer."—Rocky Mountain News
"One of the year's best books...startling...sobering."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Absorbing...insightful...fascinating and often frightening." —Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
We take our medicines on faith. We assume our doctors are well-informed, our drug companies scrupulous, our FDA diligent--and our medications safe. All too often we're wrong. Just how wrong is documented in this critically acclaimed portrait of the international pharmaceutical industry by one of our most highly respected investigative journalists.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), adverse drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of death in America. Reactions to prescription and over-the-counter medications kill far more people annually than all illegal drug use combined.
Stephen Fried's wife took a pill for a minor infection--and ended up in the emergency room. Some drug reactions go away in a few hours or days. Diane's did not. This emotionally wrenching experience launched Fried into a five-year examination of the entire pharmaceutical industry, the most profitable legal business in the world. Rigorously documented, Bitter Pills is a full-scale portrait of pill making and pill taking in America today, presented through the powerful human drama of doctors, patients, drug companies, the FDA, and government regulators as they war for control of our medicine cabinets.
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Let me say that first, Stephen Fried's book is an excellent overview of the circumstances of adverse drug reactions to quinolone antibiotics. And with the increased visibility and use of Cipro, and the ease with which doctors dispense heavy-hitting antibiotics like Levaquin and Tequin, I'm sure I'm not going to be the last person to suffer a reaction and end up being "Floxed" and needing the information and reassurance provided by this book.
But it is also much much more. It's an expose of the pharmaceutical industry's fast and loose way of dealing with drugs, drug safety and the American public. This is not a rant -- it's an impeccably researched and detailed presentation of the intricacies involved in drug approvals and tracking of adverse reactions that exposes the limitations of the system, and the dangers those limitations present to us as patients and consumers.
As a patient advocate and spokesperson for thyroid and autoimmune disease patients, I know all too well the feeling of being held hostage to big pharmaceutical companies at the expense of my health and wellness.
Stephen Fried has finally exposed and explained -- clearly and without rancor -- how the drug industry really works, and his book, including the excellent appendix on how to contact pharmaceutical companies, report adverse reactions, protect yourself against bad drugs, and generally protect yourself as a consumer -- is must-reading for every empowered patient or health consumer.
I highly recommend this book to doctors, patients, and anyone who prescribes or takes prescription drugs.
Fried, and his readers, soon discover that Diane Ayres' case was not unique, or even rare. Floxin is only one of legions of prescription drugs which can cause severe adverse reactions, which cause at least 45,000 deaths per year in the US (some estimates go as high as 200,000). It is a tribute to Fried's excellence as a reporter that he is able go beyond his dramatic personal story to give a comprehensive picture of what he calls " the hazardous world of legal drugs."
Fried reviews the history of drug regulation in the US, and ably documents the shortcomings of the current regulatory system, as well as the inordinate influence drug companies have on the process. Two of the many specific "hazards" he identifies are the desperate need for doctors to have an independent, reliable source of information on the drugs they prescribe (almost all the informatin they currently have comes from drug manufacturers), and the equally crying need for an effective system for reporting and cataloging adverse drug reactions.
I put this book down very impressed with Fried as both a reporter and a writer. He has clearly immersed himself in an important issue long enough, and deeply enough, that he has mastered it. He has then turned around to convey the complex issues involved to readers very effectively and without losing their interest. I look forward to work of similar excellence from Fried in the future.