Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blood Feud - by Kathleen Sharp

This book exposes how money and profits drive Big Pharma's enormous influence on the medical industry and ultimately the health of its patients, as well as the pockets of taxpayers who subsidize it.  At the center of the story is an anti-anemia drug developed in the 1980's by a start-up named Amgen.  In a move to save the company, they licensed it to industry giant Johnson & Johnson.  The two companies, armed with a non-competitive marketing agreement, sold the miraculous "blood booster" drug under the names Procrit, Epogen, and Aranesp.  Fueled by sales tactics like biased marketing studies, off-invoice rebates, doctor payments, and off-label promotions, though, the drug was pitched for uses and dosages that led to billions in annual sales and turned it into a huge biotech blockbuster with some disregarded dangers.

It is also the human story of Mark Duxbury, who paid a huge price for his transformation from award winning Procrit salesman to whistleblower.  In the end, even with the help of his former colleague and good friend Dean McClellan, who provided a treasure trove of damning documents, I was somewhat surprised with the alarming outcome (or lack of one) in the end.

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