The more our health depends on their little pills, the more we seem to hate big drug companies. In The Constant Gardener (2000), John le Carré assigns to the pharmaceutical industry the role played by the KGB in his earlier novels. A villainous pharmaceutical company is using Kenya as a testing ground for a lethally defective drug, and people who find out about it die, too. Four recent, non-fiction indictments of the industry tell a similar story. Conflating the four into one, one might title them collectively How Big Pharma Deceives, Endangers, and Rips Us Off, with the Complicity of Doctors.
Two of these books are by former editors of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Slamming the drug companies, Marcia Angell argues that Big Pharma, as it has come to be called, “uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the U.S. Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself.” Slamming the medical profession, academics, and professional organizations, Jerome P. Kassirer, Angell’s former boss, labels them Big Pharma’s “whores.”