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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author Gerald Posner reveals the heroes and villains of the trillion-dollar-a-year pharmaceutical industry and delivers “a withering and encyclopedic indictment of a drug industry that often seems to prioritize profits over patients" (The New York Times Book Review).

Pharmaceutical breakthroughs such as antibiotics and vaccines rank among some of the greatest advancements in human history. Yet, exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs, safety recalls affecting tens of millions of Americans, and soaring rates of addiction and overdose on prescription opioids have caused many to lose faith in drug companies. Now, Americans are demanding a national reckoning with a monolithic industry.

Pharma introduces brilliant scientists, in-corruptible government regulators, and brave whistle-blowers facing off against company executives often blinded by greed. A business that profits from treating ills can create far deadlier problems than it cures. Addictive products are part of the industry’s DNA, from the days when corner drugstores sold morphine, heroin, and cocaine, to the past two decades of dangerously overprescribed opioids.

Pharma also uncovers the real story of the Sacklers, the family that became one of America’s wealthiest from the success of OxyContin, their blockbuster narcotic painkiller at the center of the opioid crisis. Relying on thousands of pages of government and corporate archives, dozens of hours of interviews with insiders, and previously classified FBI files, Posner exposes the secrets of the Sacklers’ rise to power - revelations that have long been buried under a byzantine web of interlocking companies with ever-changing names and hidden owners. The unexpected twists and turns of the Sackler family saga are told against the startling chronicle of a powerful industry that sits at the intersection of public health and profits. Pharma reveals how and why American drug com­panies have put earnings ahead of patients.

©2020 Gerald Posner (P)2020 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Pharma

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book, but with some issues

The book gives an extensive overview of the pharmaceutical industry in the USA from its dubious start at the beginning of 20 century (with sales of narcotics and rather strange substances as medications) to the 2019 and Sackler’s empire demise.

Why you should read it:
• The author has done extensive research, with proofs and well-documented facts
• It focuses on both medications (their benefits and side-effects) and legislation (patents and their extension, how the requirements for FDA approval were changing), and also clearly describes how marketing technologies specific to pharma were created
• Describes many instances (and their mechanisms) of how pharma tried to increase their profit, putting it before the patient’s benefits.
• Helps to understand how the FDA was created and how it evolved throughout the years
• It provides a social context for some of the issues (for example, contraceptives and feminists movement)
• The chapters helps to keep you focused, despise the book length
• Narration is good

Several drawbacks (in my opinion)
• Nearly half of the book in one way or another is devoted to Sackler’s family. Although it is an important case, long descriptions of their lifestyle and art collections are boring and not relevant.
• Because story of Sackler’s family arises throughout the whole book, sometimes it is difficult to keep track

Overall, the book is quite good, it gives a balanced overview of the pharmaceutical industry, not demonizing it, but highlighting that it is, first of all, a business with the main aim to gain profit.

3 people found this helpful

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I was on the fence until the last 30 minutes and then...

The author implies that the reason for high drug prices today isn’t from the greed of big Pharma but rather from the greed of the pharmacy benefit managers. I listened to him spreading the same lies told by mainstream media, in an effort to draw in revenue via game playing, rebates are NOT the money maker the author thinks they are!!! I’m very disappointed and, I now trust nothing in this book and I won’t read another one by him!

2 people found this helpful

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Yet another reason to not trust our government

Even if half of this is true it should really make every American angry at how we have been played by our corrupt politicians and the system they don't want to adjust. There is no good explanation other then simple greed and becuase they can when the same EXACT drug costs 10 times more in the US then in other parts of the world.

1 person found this helpful

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Good, and kind of dense

This book was very good and I enjoyed how it showed a lot about the United States and its shortcomings. If it was not as dense and heavy with similar information it would have been easily 4 out of 5. This was really the only thing that did it for me, nothing to seriously wrong with this book as it is a very well done book.

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Informative but too long

A great read about history of pharma and focus on key events over the years and associated wrong doings. Content could be reduced by 20% as it is a very long book.