Ten Drugs

How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine
Narrated by: Angelo Di Loreto
Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3,223 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Behind every landmark drug is a story. It could be an oddball researcher’s genius insight, a catalyzing moment in geopolitical history, a new breakthrough technology, or an unexpected but welcome side effect discovered during clinical trials. Piece together these stories, as Thomas Hager does in this remarkable, century-spanning history, and you can trace the evolution of our culture and the practice of medicine.   

Beginning with opium, the “joy plant,” which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book.

©2019 Thomas Hager (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Ten Drugs

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    5 out of 5 stars

Informative, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

When I went into this book, I was pretty firmly in the camp of those who wish ill on pharmaceutical executives as a matter of course, and I won't say this book changed my mind -- I doubt anything could -- but it does provide for a more nuanced approach to the general question of where drug companies fit in our society. Hager is honest and clear about the good *and* the bad they've done over the years -- and about *how* those good and bad things were done.

Refreshingly, Hager does his level best not to lead the reader/listener down any paths other than the strictly factual/historical, leaving it up to all of us to draw our own conclusions. The fact that these conclusions are, most often, 'drug companies are, often, massive pits of soulless, profit-mongering amorality' is... well.

That's just how this works. As Hager points out, often enough for us to get the point, but not *too* often, it takes a massive outlay of money in order for any drug to be discovered, and that's *before* all the vastly necessary safety tests. They have to make money if we're going to get anything out of them, and that means they're going to squeeze us for everything we're worth.

Still, more than the look at the pharmaceutical companies, this book is a rich and fantabulous look at the drugs themselves. Having studied a fair amount of neurochemistry and biology, I would say that this book doesn't go especially deep into the science, but it does go deep enough to be satisfying -- and accurate. You're *going* to learn something -- and have fun while you're at it.

Fun side note: I gave the performance 5 stars, mostly because di Loreto is occasionally more angry with the drug companies than Hager is. LOVE IT.

116 people found this helpful

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A good read

I liked the way that the author covered the drugs with stories. I thought that the histories of each one was entertaining.

22 people found this helpful

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Engrossing to physicians & lay persons alike

As a physician, a scientist, and an all around nerd, my Audible library vacillates between SciFi and Historical non-fiction. Although this book firmly resides in the latter category, I found it completely captivating and engrossing more akin to a good drama. For the most part, the book comes off like a PBS documentary in its audiobook narration, but it is structured more like a dramatic story with you (or maybe I should say "humankind") positioned as the protagonist of this historical exploration drama. Thomas Hagar has done an excellent job in turning what could have been a very dry topic full of dates, names and anecdotal stories, into more of a first person exploration of the topic. I have at least a dozen titles in my Audible library on the topic of science and medicine, and "Ten Drugs" has instantly shot to the top of my list of favorites (in that category). It is easy to listen to, easy to digest, and ultimately very informative (and I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself bring up something you learned from this book the next time you're out with friends).

148 people found this helpful

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Should be required reading.

what an excellent balanced approach to the historical context of modern medicine. The love affair America has with medicine is almost comical considering the reality we have always been taking "Grandma:s Rhumatoid" medicine for something.

29 people found this helpful

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Doctor Review

As a practicing physician I found this book extremely important. I already shared much of its opinions and hope most other practitioners do as well. Great history lessons and hopefully lessons applied to the future of keeping humans healthy.

12 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and so informative

This could have been a very dull book.
I took a chance and was thrilled.

24 people found this helpful

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Like a good detective story

This is a fascinating book that made me want to go back to studying chemistry and molecular cell biology. The stories behind the drugs and other therapies pull you in like a good detective story. I feel that the author has a somewhat naive axe to grind against companies that have helped bring about so many discoveries, but it doesn’t diminish the book.

35 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable and Informative

Really enjoying this book. It is quite engaging despite the subject matter being entirely non-fiction. Love the narrator too, he reminds me of a radio drama narrator.

38 people found this helpful

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It never gets boring

First things first the narrator nailed it. The content itself was also highly gripping. At times I would have liked a more detailed explanation of the some of the mechanics of the ideas that were being presented (such as the autoimmune system in the second to last chapter), but other than that it's a great introductory text to the world of pharmaceuticals.

25 people found this helpful

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I was hooked

Fantastic book! I’m a pharmacist and I couldn’t get enough of the back stories on many of these world changing drugs!

31 people found this helpful

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  • jim norman
  • 07-22-20

Fascinating!

Fascinating subject, well researched.
Presented in a light and easy to absorb format. Explains complex concepts in a layperson style without "dumbing down".
In each case it includes a brief background history of the circumstances that brought about the creation/discovery of the various drugs both medical and recreational and examins their use in modern times.
I found the section on drugs, politics and finance particularly interesting - concerning how funding and/or the inclination for research is more easily addressed for some types of diseases or medical conditions but not others.
A pionent review on the subject of how some countries treat recreational drug users as criminals (The War on Drugs) or as victims and how these different attitudes affect society as a whole.
It also tackles the current "Anti-Vax" movement and the use of homeopathic drugs. Personal choice or selfish ignorance?
A most enlightening read.

My only criticism is the quality of the recording - not the narrator. The narrator's voice is clear, well paced and engaging. It seems to be a technical issue resulting in any word with a "S" in it sounding like an off-tuned "Short Wave radio" transmission from the moon. Try saying "Symbiosis, cynapsis, sepsis" etc. This can be mitigated somewhat by turning down the treble on the player but it is still a distraction.
Audible, please Quality Check your products.


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  • Clive Smart
  • 07-14-20

Very well read and very interesting

A wonderful guide to the history of medicine through the prism of 10ish drugs. We see the incredible and often scary influence of these drugs in medicine and society and the history of their discovery, development and use. Great chapters on opioids, pain killers, vaccines, antibiotics, statins...a whistle stop tour of our ongoing historical use of drugs, the battle with viruses and drugs, the pharmaceutical industry, addiction and side effects...overall: a fascinating keeper. Very well read. A keeper.

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  • Richard Sainson
  • 04-18-20

Fantastic book that makes you think...

Good drugs, bad drugs, good companies, bad companies, good scientists or bad scientists? Or just good and bad applications...like for any scientific discoveries!

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  • jason houghton
  • 04-16-20

Excellent

I really enjoyed this book.. very interesting and very informative without going overboard. As well as the drugs/medications, you will learn a good deal about world history too!

If you’re interested in medication and history of the world, I would recommend this book :)

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  • Dagon
  • 12-30-19

Absolutely Fantastic!

This is an absolutely fantastic book. I listened intently to the entire book, which was rather expertly read and I have to admit that it taught me a great deal that I did not know. It kept my interest right through to the end. Do yourself a favour, buy this book.

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  • Nick Elliott
  • 07-23-19

Enlightening

true to his word the author puts this all in language we can all understand but still enough to be interesting. a massive eye opener and no doubt doorway into more delving in different areas for me. FASCINATING!!!!

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  • Goronwy-Wyn
  • 04-02-19

The world of "cures" or maybe not.

From bigotry to big pharma and the corporate profit associated with your desire to live for ever...or not.