Pharmacology

  • The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession
    by Chandler Burr

    Biophysicist Luca Turin believes that the nose deciphers smell by using not the shape of molecules but their vibrations. He also has an abiding and lifelong passion for perfume. From their chance meeting, the author sets out to write "the simple story of the creation of a scientific theory" by chronicling Turin's work over several years. Burr ends up taking readers into the perfume industry and the scientific publishing world. I am including this highly readable book precisely because it provides a balanced and necessarily harsh view of the peer-reviewed process and the dogma and powerful industry interests that so often decaptitate new theories before they have seen the light of day. Our sense of smell is how we eat and it is likely that it features prominently in the perception of abnormal eating behaviors in ways we have yet to consider or investigate at all.

     
  • The Secret History of the War on Cancer
    by Devra Davis

    The "War on Cancer"in our society was set out to find, treat, and cure a disease. Left untouched were many of the things known to cause cancer, including tobacco, the workplace, radiation, or the global environment. Proof of how the world in which we live and work affects whether we get cancer was either overlooked or suppressed. Phenomenal lobbying efforts from industries that make cancer-causing chemicals and agents that are rife in everyday consumer products, and pharmaceutical companies that profit from the drugs and technologies for finding and treating the disease ensured that environmental triggers remained a no-go zone in this so-called war. A portion of the profits from this book goes to support research on cancer prevention.

     
  • White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine
    by Carl Elliot

    Carl Elliot is a professor of bioethics and I wish he'd been my prof. His exposé on the incestuous relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies is both eye-opening and entertaining. I quote him in my series on FAT in the blog: "The best mark is often a person to whom the possibility of a con never occurs, simply because he thinks he is too smart to be tricked. Medical practice is like this. Many doctors know nothing about advertising, salesmanship, or public relations. They believe these are jobs for people who could not get into medical school. This probably why they are so easily fooled."

     
  • Wrong: Why experts* keep failing us--and how to know when not to trust them *Scientists, finance wizards, doctors, relationship gurus, celebrity CEOs, ... consultants, health officials and more
    by David H. Freedman

    This book is a must read to gain much-needed perspective on how experts and their peer-reviewed publications must be approached with caution. Freedman is a journalist who specializes in business, technology and medical journalism. As an aside, Freedman himself has fallen prey to accepting obesity as a disease when the actual scientific data to support that concept would not hold up under the scrutiny he recommends we follow when considering expert advice in general. In fact, I find that fact comforting for we all have blindspots and it does not diminish any of the astute advice he provides in this book. 

     
  • Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression (Medicine, Culture, and History)
    by David Healy

    "Let Them Eat Prozac" explores the history of SSRIs - from their early development to their latest marketing campaigns - and the controversies that surround them. When Prozac was released in the late 1980s, David Healy was among the psychiatrists who prescribed it. But he soon observed that some of his patients became agitated and even attempted suicide. Healy draws on his own research and expertise to demonstrate the potential hazards associated with these drugs. "Let Them Eat Prozac" clearly demonstrates that the problems go much deeper than a side-effect of a particular drug. The pharmaceutical industry would like us to believe that SSRIs can safely treat depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental problems. But as "Let Them Eat Prozac" reveals, this "cure" may be worse than the disease.

     
  • Disease, Diagnoses, and Dollars: Facing the Ever-Expanding Market for Medical Care
    by Robert M. Kaplan

    Kaplan is professor of both public health and medicine. This book is most intriguing because it addresses the ethics of disease screening and treatment from the perspective of access as well as its value to both the individual and the population at large. Because we keep ratcheting screening guidelines as well as transforming more conditions into disease states, we now have an ever shrinking population of the excessively cared-for alongside the every burgeoning uninsured and uncared-for. Most fascinating is that even excessive care for the wealthy few does not usually generate better outcomes or longevity for them in any case.

     
  • Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients
    by Ray Moynihan, Alan Cassels

    Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels show how drug companies are systematically using their dominating influence in the world of medical science. Drug companies are working, and succeeding, at defining the boundaries that define illness. Mild problems are redefined as serious illness, and common complaints are labeled as medical conditions requiring drug treatments. Selling Sickness reveals how expanding the boundaries of illness and lowering the threshold for treatments is creating millions of new patients and billions in new profits, in turn threatening to bankrupt national healthcare systems all over the world.

     
  • Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things
    by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie

    Smith and Lourie are Canadian environmental activists who investigate the toxic soup inside each of us. "Dose makes the poison" is a concept dating back to the sixteenth century that allows, to this day, for industry to include all manner of untested chemicals in everyday products wrongly presuming that the doses are too low to be considered poisonous. But the argument that infinitestimal amounts are harmless is questionable when FDA-approved prescription drugs have phenomenal physiological impact at often smaller doses than the levels of heavy metals currently found in almost all our bloodstreams today. We have two protective measures at our disposal today: 1) educate yourself and vote with your dollars and 2) lobby your government represenatives to adopt the precautionary principle when it comes to chemical use in consumer products.