Frank Honigsbaum, 4 October 1984
The pharmaceutical industry arouses conflicting emotions. Anti-vivisectionists, fringe medical practitioners and food faddists all tend to hate it, while the rest of us are periodically alarmed by the drug disasters that occur and the extent of drug-induced disease. The commercial practices of the industry also provoke concern: complaints arise continuously about price-gouging, market-rigging, profiteering, tax avoidance, misleading advertising claims and a whole host of unsavoury promotional techniques. Against these charges must be set the immense benefits wrought by the succession of wonder drugs that have appeared since prontosil (the forerunner of penicillin) ushered in the antibiotic revolution in 1935. The world would be a sicker and more dangerous place if the industry did not exist. Life expectancy would everywhere be shorter and far more people would be in pain. There is no doubt that on balance drug firms do more good – indeed, far more good – than harm. It is important to keep this in mind when considering these four books, all of which show the industry in dire need of reform.