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Book and Software Review
June 1, 2005

Overdo$ed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It

Arch Ophthalmol. 2005;123(6):876-877. doi:10.1001/archopht.123.6.876-a

Both books enumerate health care problems created by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Dr Abramson is a primary care physician who took time off to write his book, and Dr Angell is now a member of the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine. She was the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Each author lists the problems and proposes solutions. There are many commonalities, albeit different perspectives.

The lack of information that leads clinicians to deliver poor care is the most noisome for Dr Abramson, probably because he spent most of his career as a clinician. He delves into specific instances describing when information was manipulated to the detriment of his patients so that drugs would be sold and companies would profit. The statins (with exaggerated claims), COX-2 inhibitors (now in the news for drug-company suppression of known complications), high-dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation (for the treatment of breast cancer), hormone replacement therapy (for menopause), Rezulin (troglitazone; Parke-Davis, Morris Plains, NJ), Cardura (doxazosin mesylate; Pfizer, New York, NY), and implantable defibrillators are all examples of drug companies’ succeeding by manipulating information. He also explains the lack of truthfulness in marketing treatments for osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, cancer, and obesity. A main point is that lifestyle changes, which are far more beneficial to patient health, are not discussed by the drug companies or by physicians.

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