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  • Dan Connors

Book Review- Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine

Ten Drugs by Thomas Hager. 5 of 5 stars

Ten drugs is one of my favorite books of the year so far. With the enormous amounts of money we spend on drugs, I'm surprised there haven't been more tomes on this important topic. Hager tells eleven fascinating stories about eleven drugs (he cheats and covers the pill and Viagra in the same chapter), and how they came to be. The stories, some miraculous, others proving the importance of relentless scientific trial and error, are absorbing and wonderful. He shows how these drugs and their offspring have changed not only medicine but our economy and social structure. The eleven drugs are: - Opium and its offspring morphine, the first true natural drug, cause of so much relief and so much hardship. - Smallpox vaccine and how it came from the brave fools that deliberately gave themselves smallpox. - Chloral Hydrate, aka the Mickey Finn, the first synthetic drug created in a lab. - Heroin- once legal and commonly prescribed at the turn of the 20th century. - Sulfa and its antibiotic offspring- how they saved lives but made germs stronger and meaner. - Thorazine- the first drug to help with mental illness - The pill- How synthetic hormones kept women from ovulating and gave them power over their own bodies for the first time in history. - Viagra- how the little blue pill became one of the most lucrative drugs ever made. - Opiates and how they became a scourge on society as far back as the 1800's. - Statins- one of the possibly most over-prescribed drugs out today and how Big Pharma pushes profits over reasonable benefits. - Biologics like Humira and Avastin, and how they changed the entire drug model from the chemistry lab to the use of specially designed cells to do the work for us.

Fascinating, important and timely. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Scientific knowledge is not required, but helpful. We all need to be smarter consumers in the medical marketplace.

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