Profits Trumping Health
A Brief Review of Melody Petersen’s
Our Daily Meds.
by Chris Smith
In Our Daily Meds, Melody Petersen – a journalist who has long covered the pharmaceutical industry for the NY Times – presents a thorough case against the greed of pharmaceutical companies, and the manifold atrocities that it has caused. In the introduction, she writes: “The tragedy lies not with the medicines but with the marketing and the unprecedented power that these companies now have over the practice of medicine. … In too many cases, whether a medicine helps or harms a patient has become secondary to how much it will bring shareholders in profits. That is the story of this book” (11). As a former employee of a pharmaceutical company, with many ethical questions about the business, this is the book for which I had long been waiting.
If you have read Ivan Illich’s Medical Nemesis, or if you are otherwise skeptical of the modern medical system, don’t waste your time reading this book; yes, the greed of pharma companies is great and yes, it has done much evil in the world – probably even more than you imagine. However, if you think pharmaceutical companies are mostly benign, just doing what any company might do in a capitalist economy, you should read this book. Laws were bent and broken, science whored out to corporate agendas, and all with little regard for human life or health.
And to those who say that I (or Ms. Petersen) are being too harsh, let me add that I would love to see a clear and direct response from the Pharma industry to all of the charges raised in this book. Even such a response would itself be a sign of hope, for the pattern of pharmaceutical companies that Petersen traces here is one of obscuring, evading and covering up.
Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies
Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines
and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs.
Hardcover. FSG. 2008.
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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com