A blistering, persuasive critique of the harms done when drug companies hide the truth about their drugs.

SICKENING

HOW BIG PHARMA BROKE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE AND HOW WE CAN REPAIR IT

A family physician and Harvard Medical School lecturer exposes the sordid tactics big pharma uses to jack up drug prices and con doctors about the facts they need to provide good care.

Abramson makes a powerful case that, over the past 40 years, profiteering drug companies have played an outsized role in two crises: the soaring costs of health care and America’s plunging “healthy life expectancy,” ranked 68th in the world in 2019. Linking the problem to a corporate shift to chasing profitability untethered from social responsibility, the author shows how corporations have hijacked sources of information doctors once could trust, such as medical journals, educational conferences, and lectures. The corruption began in the 1990s, when drug companies took control of clinical trials from academic medical centers; 6 out of 7 trials are now funded commercially by sponsors who have no obligation to show their data to medical journals. In an especially alarming chapter, Abramson shows how repeated changes in insulin have made it vastly more expensive for people with diabetes with little—if any—benefit. Companies have also withheld or manipulated facts about statins and popular drugs like Trulicity and Humira, which costs $78,000 per year. “Humira became by far the best-selling drug in the United States,” writes the author, “despite the fact that the manufacturer’s own study showed that it was no more effective as a first-line therapy for rheumatoid arthritis than methotrexate, which costs 99.5 percent less than Humira.” Abramson proposes worthy long-term solutions to the crisis, such as transparency about clinical trial results. But this book, the best on prescription drugs since Katherine Eban’s Bottle of Lies (2019), should also have high short-term value for patients, whom it might embolden to question their doctors more aggressively about whether there’s an equally effective substitute for a drug with a sky-high price tag.

A blistering, persuasive critique of the harms done when drug companies hide the truth about their drugs.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-328-95781-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more