Mary Linnen, 29, was determined to lose 25 pounds before her wedding. In May 1996, her doctor prescribed a combination of drugs known as Fen-Phen. When Linnen complained of dizziness and shortness of breath 23 days after starting the medications, her doctor told her to stop the drugs--but didn't examine her or order tests. Linnen got better for a time, then the shortness of breath and exhaustion returned worse than ever. Her legs and stomach swelled. She collapsed at work. Six months after taking Fen-Phen, Linnen was admitted to the emergency room with primary pulmonary hypertension: the capillaries that sent oxygen to her lungs had thickened and were closing, suffocating her. Her survival expectation after heart surgery was less than four years. Hooked up to a tube in her chest to prevent heart failure, she died three months later.
Dispensing with the Truth: The Battle over Fen-Phen tells the story of the legal battle against the pharmaceutical companies after Fen-Phen's users started dying--some, like Linnen, of primary pulmonary hypertension; others of heart valve damage. Investigative reporter Alicia Mundy weaves a dramatic tale from the development of the drugs to FDA approval to the final litigation. How much did the pharmaceutical companies know about the risks long before most of the deaths? Plenty, according to the evidence Mundy reveals. Although at times the book seems overfilled with details that slow down the drama, if you want the complete, behind-the-scenes story of one of the most famous "profits over protection" cases, this book tells all. --Joan Price
From Publishers Weekly
H"You are going to hear about a diet pill combination that was a craze... one of the most remarkably profitable pharmaceutical undertakings in the history of the United States," said Alex MacDonald, as quoted here by Mundy, in his opening statement during the Mary Linnen case. Beginning with the death of Linnen, a young woman who took Fen-Phen for less than a month to lose a few pounds before her wedding and died of primary pulmonary hypertension less than a year later, Mundy's book reads like a medical thriller. But the story of the lives affected by the flawed obesity drug is all too true: approximately 45,000 women "were believed to have developed one of two different diseases linked to their lungs or their heart from taking the drugs"; 300,000 women were prepared to sue the manufacturer to pay for tests to determine if they were ill. Mundy, an investigative journalist and contributor to both Mediaweek and Washingtonian magazine, looks at all the players, including the victims, the resolute legal team, corporate giant Wyeth-Ayerst (the drug's maker), the elite medical community that defended it and the negligent FDA. It took the discovery of heart valve damage to force the drug off the market. The FDA knew of problems with the drug but for a variety of reasons, from bureaucratic sluggishness to cozy relationships with the pharmaceutical companies, remained silent. Mundy has turned an incredibly complex chain of events into a readable and moving narrative, reminisicent of A Civil Action, that engages the reader as it details these legal and personal battles. (May)Forecast: With so many Americans both overweight and diet-obsessed, St. Martin's is betting on a popular response to this book and is reporting a first printing of 75,000 copies. Elle and Self are giving extensive coverage to Mundy in their May issues, and a lengthy interview on NPR has been arranged. The author will be making appearances in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.