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Customer Review

on 3 March 2006
Big Pharma Review – Jacky Law
What’s the difference between good journalism and honey? Not a lot. Both run smooth, hit the spot when it comes to taste; and both as they have no bitter aftertaste leave you wanting for nothing but more.
Big Pharma – a revelation of a book - is written with skill and concision. With the right facts supporting the most telling of arguments that just keep on coming. Over 250 pages of paragraph after illuminating paragraph making it a honey of a read. What Jacky Law has to report could have been just an eye-opener for the inside few, but her riveting, forceful and fair-minded telling of it, makes it a true ‘must-read’ for us all.
The author has taken her twenty five years experience of reporting on the planet’s pill makers, added some of her own smart investigative insights, to lead us effortlessly, and with great purpose into the heart of this previously hidden industry. The white-coated world of the pharmaceutical giants is revealed in all its grubby majesty.
No doubt about it, the figures – the mighty ever-escalating billions – show us that Big Pharma is one of the most dominant and influential of the corporate kings that this century or any other period has ever known.
Her book is a wakeup call that we ignore at our peril. A dossier of well-researched facts and arguments carefully and clearly presented. Her intention isn’t to shock, more to enlighten. But because of the depth of the book’s inquiry and the scale of what is uncovered shock it does.
Medicine, as we all know, is quiet literally a matter of life and death. Which one of us isn’t a hostage to our health? So we think, or at least I did, that the industry, which supplies the doctors and systems that we so rely on are as ethical as the lifesavers themselves. Maybe not perfect but a working approximation of the Good Guy. If not saints then certainly not sinners. But forget any notion of the Hippocratic oath, money as these pages show doesn’t just talk, in Big Pharma it swears.
Drug development is exposed as being little different from any other new product programme. Profitability isn’t simply an outcome of success it’s prerequisite. The efforts, half lies and chicanery of the multi national are often enough to make a snake oil salesman blush. If a treatment can be left to commonsense or priced up to smack of high science then it’s no contest. The end user, the patient, you and I, are no more or less than a market to be maximised.
Of course there have been improvements. Medicine naturally is best as an investment when it works to cure or alleviate. So it’s not all smoke and mirrors. The bottom line always looks better when pills are efficient, when drugs deliver. There’s no doubt about it, the pharmaceutical giants have changed our expectations and experience of health and sickness.
There has been the introduction of some truly remarkable concoctions and life saving remedies. Breakthrough after breakthrough brings us better and better medicine. But progress in profits has been even more remarkable.
See how much value dealing with the sick and dying can generate. See how tricky, ruthless and rapacious Big Pharma can be. Arm yourself with information. Start making the medicine business accountable to the people it serves not the bank balances it generates.
A chapter a day starting now may not make you feel better, but it will give you a healthier understanding of what’s really happening in the big, big world of Pharma.
But be warned it will leave an aftertaste. And it won’t be sweet.
Barry Brooks
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