Renee 's Reviews > The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg: Accutane - The Truth That Had to Be Told

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg by Doug Bremner
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Jan 20, 12

it was ok
bookshelves: first-reads
Recommended to Renee by: Goodreads Firstreads
Read from January 18 to 20, 2012 , read count: 1

** The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg by Doug Bremner was provided to me free-of-charge by the author through a GoodReads, FirstReads Giveaway. **

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg chronicles the author's experience of the fallout of his research findings concerning the link between Hoffman-La Roche's drug Accutane (used primarily for acne treatment) and changes in brain function which are linked to depression and/or suicidal ideation or actions in those taking the drug. The author states that "between 300 and 3,000" young people being prescribed Accutane since its launch have committed suicide or killed others".

Also threaded throughout the book is the author's personal story of finding closure on a number of issues with regards to his mother, whom he lost as a young child. The author takes us along his journey of finding and reuniting with his mother's side of the family, putting her to rest, and uncovering details surrounding her life and death.

This book fell short of my expectations. I was keenly interested in reading a book about the inner workings of the pharmaceutical companies and how they are intertwined with the research community. The first few chapters showed promise as it was revealed that the author was a paid consultant for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline – I really appreciated that disclosure. The next few chapters chronicled how he became involved in the Accutane case and the litigation and consequences for his career. It was pretty much what I would expect from a powerful pharmaceutical company (Hoffman-La Roche). I was not surprised, but I’ll get back to this later in my review.

And then, it started falling apart for me. The author then begins the “related” narrative of the search for his mother’s family. The remaining half of the book made me extremely uncomfortable. It felt like I was reading someone’s personal journal. If there was a link to what I read and what I thought this book was going to be about (the research, the pharmaceutical company, the litigation, etc), it was tenuous at best. That’s why I say that it fell short of my expectations. If the book had been marketed as the impact of what happened on the author with regards to his personal life, then I would have been primed for what the book was about. I just felt it was a bit too personal – not what I expected. Even as I re-read the description on the back of the book, I still think it doesn’t describe the content of the book.

Then there’s some issues with some of the content. In Chapter 65 (the before-to-last chapter), there is finally a resolution to the Accutane issue. The author receives a phone call from one of the lawyers to announce “ ‘Roche just announced that they are taking Accutane off of the market.’ ” This is repeated on the next page in quotations by the author, “ ‘It went from being a billion-dollar-a-year drug to being removed from the market in just a few years!’ ” Followed by his lawyer’s response: “ ‘Your research and speaking out went a long way to raising awareness about the risks of this drug.’ ”

I don’t dispute that the author contributed (at much personal cost) to this resolution, but while Hoffman-La Roche did remove Accutane from the market, the patent expired in 2002. Several other drug companies, since that time, produce and sell generic versions of the same drug which, many believe, have the same side effects. So, where’s the discussion about this?

While the author states that between 300 and 3,000 young people have committed suicide or killed others while taking Accutane, I think the number of birth defects and spontaneous abortions related to Accutane use (estimated to be roughly between 12,000 and 14,000) for example (there are many, many other serious side effects) is greatly underplayed especially with regards to the reason why it was finally pulled from the shelf (understanding that there were MANY reasons!)

Small thing...it raised eyebrows only because I have a similar condition; spondylitis is an inflammation of one or more of the vertebrae in the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is the auto-immune disorder that the author refers to. Sorry, that’s just my @nal-retentiveness coming out!

If the author is going to write about some very deep and personal feelings that he has about the people in his book, he leaves himself open to an analysis. As I read the book, I noted the negative feelings that frequently associated his interactions with the females in his life. For example, he refers to the Roche lawyer as a “b*tch”; he refers to his “step-grandmother” as his step-mother’s mother, while his sister refers to her as “grandma”; he clearly has not attached to his step-mother as his “mom” even though she has been in his life since he was a young child; and he is honest about the tensions between himself and the women in his immediate family (his wife and daughter) while seemingly having no such issues with his son. I only mention this because again, it made me deeply uncomfortable to be reading this.

I mean the author no disrespect – he clearly went through a harrowing experience that had a significant impact on his life. My rating is based on the book falling short of my expectations. I just think the author could have focused more on information about the research, the world of academia, the relationships with the pharmaceutical companies, and some of the fallout with less about his personal journey to uncover his mother’s history.
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Reading Progress

01/19/2012 page 61
27.0% "Academic hat - ON!"

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