The Body Hunters: A shocking look at the pharmaceutical industry
November 3, 2011 Leave a comment
Every so often you pick up a book or watch a movie/show that just opens your eyes. In this case it was the pharmaceutical industry, after reading The Body Hunters, written by journalist Sonia Shah in 2006. It’s been a couple of months or so since I finished reading it and I still feel angry at some issues I came across. There are so many that I came across, but I’ll try and touch on only a few. It’s definitely a book worth picking up.
Since it’s entitled The Body Hunters, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the fact that these drug companies, in their quest to make money in the cheapest ways, have put the lives of so many people in danger, and killed many more. This quote from her site puts this into context for the first world audience: “Imagine the uproar if dozens of drug-trial patients in America were to perish from deadly side effects known to the FDA. Consider the commotion if AIDS babies in Europe were to die while being administered placebos rather than potentially life-saving drugs. These scandals did happen—just elsewhere.”
Never again when I get sick will I think of the medication I take the same way. When I go to the doctor’s office and I’m prescribed something, I’ll think twice about the reason why that specific pill is being given to me, and the route it took to get to market. I know there are good drugs out there, but as an average person, I can’t tell when something’s been tested on innocent people or lobbied so hard to end up on the pharmacy store shelf even though it’s barely an effective medication. I was shocked at one example from the book where Shah notes that non-drowsy allergy medications were created just to have one brand stand apart from another. There is little more benefit in taking non-drowsy meds than not taking anything at all – the one benefit though is the millions of dollars that these companies have pocketed since creating them.
Along similar lines, because first world countries have the most money to spend, a lot of focus is spent on creating false needs for medications that will “help” us, and also creating clones of medications that are already doing the job. International rules that were set up to hold drug companies accountable were changed many times over the years to meet their growing financial greed.
Another issue is patents, which are put in place to create competition in the market so the best drugs will be created. Access to a life-saving patented drug costs a lot of money, which means getting it to those in third world nations where there’s most need is impossible. And due to regulations, it’s against the law to create copycat meds, based on those patented drugs, even though in many cases, like examples in the book from India, lives were saved. Once the new rules came into effect, disease and death skyrocketed.
As I said, I could go on and on, but it’s already more of a rant than a review. I will say that it appears Shah definitely put a lot of work into this book and that it was very informative and not (very) dry. I slugged through some parts, but it was well written and very eye opening. If you can, definitely pick this one up. I give it a 4/5.