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

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Behind every landmark drug is a story. It could be an oddball researcher’s genius insight, a catalyzing moment in geopolitical history, a new breakthrough technology, or an unexpected but welcome side effect discovered during clinical trials. Piece together these stories, as Thomas Hager does in this remarkable, century-spanning history, and you can trace the evolution of our culture and the practice of medicine. 

​Beginning with opium, the “joy plant,” which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published March 5, 2019

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About the author

Thomas Hager

22 books271 followers
How science and technology change our lives. I believe in facts.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 450 reviews
March 18, 2019
I finished the book. All of it was interesting. The future of drug research is entirely predicated on what profits Big Pharma might make. Cheap drugs that can be sold to the masses, like statins, or $1,000 a pop ones like Humira.

In one way this is very good for us all, the most profitable drugs will be those that do something amazing, like antibiotics, painkillers, the Pill, viagra etc. They will address a health issue in a major way. In another way, it isn't so good. As with the medications designed to stave off the effects of old age, whether it is minor like baldness or major like osteoporosis, the emphasis is and very likely will be, on continual, rest-of-your-life treatment rather than a cure. But without the profit motive, who would invest millions into researching something that would stop Alzheimer's? No government could afford to do so.

The title is catchy but incorrect. The true title should have been, "Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills have Shaped the History of our Societies - the book is that good, that informative and so well-written, it's a joy to read.

Notes on reading the book I've read the chapter on opium which was interesting in that no one thought it was a harmful drug except the Chinese. That country was devastated by the lethargy and addiction brought on by it, brought on by the British who were the most determined and evil drug dealers that ever existed, resulting in the Opium Wars. In the UK, the drug was thought to be beneficial and added to many medicines for children as well as adults. In particular it was thought of as a woman's drug. The middle and upper class women indulged in their after-dinner (and at all other times) reveries while the men drank port!

The second chapter was a history of vaccination against smallpox. It wasn't the usual fake history of Edward Jenner noticing that dairymaids who had previously had the very mild cowpox never got smallpox and inoculating people with a small amount of infectious material thereby gaining himself the title, 'Father of Vaccination'.

The truth of the matter was that on a diplomatic posting to Turkey with her husband, Lady Mary Montagu, saw that women in harems had beautiful complexions and discovered that they were having smallpox pus scraped into their skin resulting in a mild case of smallpox, no scarring and up and about in a couple of days. She brought this to England, publicly having her baby daughter inoculated.

What followed is a horror story. Instead of following the Turkish method, English physicians were isolating children giving them weeks of repeated laxatives, bloodlettings and low-fibre diets to 'prepare' them. Some children became terribly ill, but the physicians became terribly rich from all this 'preparatory treatment'. One of the children was Edward Jenner and thence grew the myth...
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
763 reviews3,497 followers
March 19, 2020
Hager shows how huge the impact of some chemicals and elements on human history has been.

If the opium poppy would have preferred other areas to grow or would have been more of a weed that grows everywhere, much between total global sedation or a new balance of power for the ones controlling the growing areas could have arisen.

Vaccination would have been, even with very primitive technology, been possible and a country with people immune to a virus like smallpox that is actively spreading it, as part of biological warfare tactics, would have had an immense advantage.

Getting antibiotics in the form of cultivating fungi and perfecting the method over centuries without any modern technology might have led to an all-natural approach to world domination thanks to gangrene free soldiers that are quickly back on the battlefield.

Other drugs such as statins and Viagra might have no Big History (ical) impact, but a positive one on the health and joy of both patients and big pharma, a behemoth Hager has some things to say about, such as risking the health of millions of people by just developing towards the most profitable drugs and ignoring other, often more important research in fields such as antibiotics or vaccinations or cheap generics or…

I like mind games, hypothesis, uchronias, alternative realities and it are ideas, technologies, and chemicals that formed, often in union with crazy coincidences, human history. Just imagine for instance:

Mongols with poisons so potent that a tiny cut by an arrowhead can immediately kill.
Any evil empire as the only one with antibiotics or a similar important medical technique.
Ancient Rome or another ancient empire controlling the opium trade and using it as a weapon as the Brits did.
A much earlier development of the technologies necessary to produce something in high quantities and quality.

The emperor or god king was nothing without the herbal women and alchemists.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,546 reviews309 followers
July 14, 2019
A really good history of medicine told through drugs. Author Hager writes well, doesn’t have an axe to grind and has done his homework. One of the best popular-science books I’ve seen in awhile. Highly recommended: 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Three of the ten titular drugs are opium, morphine, heroin and the modern synthetic opioids (fentanyl, oxycontin, etc.). OK, that’s five or six already, but the opioids earn their outsize space in the book by doing so well at pain control — nothing else is anywhere nearly so good for severe pain — and with their intractable problem of addiction. Despite 100+ years of strenuous efforts by the chemists, the opioids are ALL highly addictive, and once a person is addicted, something like 90% stay addicted for the rest of their life. Which may be short, as fatal overdoses are common. Per Hager, “Opioid overdoses kill more Americans than car accidents and gun homicides put together.” In the US, there have been at least three opioid crises since the mid-1840s. It’s a recurring problem that isn’t going away.

Another impressively-researched chapter is on statins, the cholesterol-reducing drugs that are widely prescribed, even for groups at pretty low risk for heart problems. The author is in that group, did his homework, and concluded that, for him, the risks outweighed the benefits. But by a small margin, and you might decide differently. Hager also wrote “Understanding Statins”, a short, inexpensive ebook based on his research: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

The review that led me to read the book is also the best I saw online, by John Steele Gordon at the WSJ: https://www.wsj.com/articles/ten-drug... It’s paywalled, but I would be happy to send you a copy.
Profile Image for Hayley.
191 reviews50 followers
January 26, 2021
The narrator is fantastic, and the book itself is interesting and offers readers a look at how drugs are made, the societal consequences of their use, and what's next in pharmaceutical offerings. The chapters on heroin, and other opioids were a sobering reminder that new drugs often have terrible side affects. I was most intrigued by the chapter on monoclonal antibodies, how they are made, why they are so expensive, and how they are a game-changer in curing or treating a disease.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,611 followers
April 2, 2022
I feel like the older I get, the dumber I feel and the less I feel like I know how to review books I finish. I wonder if there's a pill for that?

Facetiousness aside (sort of... the braindrain part is true), I enjoyed this quite a lot. I love origin stories, and the discovery or invention of world-altering substances is right up my alley. This book covers a lot of drugs (the title says 10, but it's quite a bit more than that, because some of them are classes of drugs with many variations and forms) and how they came to be, how they filled a need, how they revolutionized care or the medical industry, and eventually, how they really became an industry on their own.

Anyway, I thought this was interesting and informative and the braindrain has me running out of things to say, so... Bye.
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
557 reviews1,911 followers
June 20, 2021
Thomas Hager’s meandering (in a good way) and selective (also in a good way) history (sorta-kinda) of the evolution and cultural impact of pharmacology.

Beginning 10,000 years ago with opium. Hager discusses ancient preparations and uses, through to the opium wars, on to opium dens, through to the modern discovery of morphine and heroin, and the concurrent discovery of hypodermic syringes and intravenous drug administration.

One of Hager‘s more interesting observations is that up until pretty recently, self medication was considered a basic human right, particularly in the USA, and as recently as the 1920’s, drugs like heroin (a popular and perfectly legal home remedy at that time) were available via mail order, without prescription.

Essentially you would mail some money away, and receive a little heroin kit, replete with hypodermic rig.


This eventually (and unsurprisingly) lead to the first Amarican opioid crisis.

That along with the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, makes our current day circumstances feel like groundhogs day centennial addition.

Hager’s next stop is chloral hydrate aka ‘knock out drops’. The prototypical date rape drug colloquially referred to as a Micky Finn in gangster film parlance.

Not only was chloral hydrate diverted for those absolutely reprehensible uses previously mentioned.

It was also utilized therapeutically as a sedative and hypnotic, and (for better or for worse) served as the progenitor to today’s anxiolytic class medications e.g. barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

I say for better and for worse, because anxiolytic drugs have been very helpful for a lot of people, and (and…) they are also the scourge of my (and countless others) existence.

I’m a mental health clinician, and the clincial director of an addiction treatment center, and (as anyone in the recovery field can attest) benzodiazepines e.g. Klonnpin, Xanax etc. are an enormous problem in so far as they are ridiculously addictive, extremely difficult to kick, and obscenely dangerous, particularly when misused in combination with alcohol and/or opioids.

Hager transitions to vaccines. And in one of the more memorable chapters, discusses the all but forgotten contribution of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), who is largely responsible for importing the practice of inoculation for smallpox from the Muslim world to Europe.

Apparently there were anti-vaccers back then too.

So yeah…

And (of course) Ms. Montagu took hella shit because she was a female intellectual.

But the practice caught on and smallpox (as well as a bunch of other awful diseases) are (like Ms. Montagu herself) also all but forgotten (but in the good way).

Up next, Hager covers sulfa drugs, the first antibiotic, which are incidentally, the active ingredients of that weird white powder that WWII medics shook into field wounds (see every WWII film ever made).

Hager does a great job of discussing the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria and subsequent treatment resistant infections and diseases, and the almost equally vexing lack of incentives to continue to develop new antibiotics.

Why so few new antibiotics?

Because capitalism!

That’s right.

Not much profit to be made in antibiotics so…

One of Hager’s talking points is the proposition that there should be more not for profit or publicly funded options for development of less profitable but needed medications.

And here comes the political dead end.


Hager goes on to cover the development of the first antipsychotic drugs, which emptied the god awful public asylums in the 1980’s (a very good thing) and which also significantly contributed to the current homelessness epidemic (a very bad thing).

Hager also covers Viagra and statins (read the book if you’re interested).

And ends on monoclonal antibodies and other large molecule biological medications, and the future role of personal genomics, and digital drugs (read the book for these chapters alone).

Ultimately, Hager is both cautious and exuberant about the future of pharmacologically.

In the end, Hager simply states:

“great things are on the way“

And that I am inclined to believe.

With the caveat (clearly implicit in the text) that we need to become increasingly educated, sophisticated and cautious consumers of medicine.

This is a really good book.

And towards the end of it, as I was considering writing this review, it dawned on me that:

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it.

Precisely why didn’t I love it?

Well that is a little hard to say.

10 Drugs left me feeling entertained and educated, but just slightly underwhelmed.

Hager is a very entertaining author, and the book reads like a summer fun page turner for science dorks (yes to all of that).

It’s interesting enough to keep you engaged

It’s informative enough to feel productive.

And it’s playful enough to take to the beach.

In other words.

10 Drugs is good for ’recreational use’.

But in the end, it felt a little (just a little) less mind altering than I would have liked.

It’s still a really really good book.

Definitely worth reading.

Just not quite 5 stars (for me).
Profile Image for Mary.
260 reviews
March 23, 2019
There's plenty of interesting information in this book. However, the author's chatty, informal writing style began grating on me after a while. It was as though this very complex topic was intentionally being dumbed down. About half way through I confess to skimming a bit here and there. Hence the two stars.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
March 15, 2019
Really interesting books about several popular and some life saving drugs. The part I liked best was the focus on the money angle--what kind of drugs sell (lipitor and viagra for example) and how the profit motive makes for bad decisionmaking in drug research. We tend to assume that patent protection and the ability to make tons of money leads to better drugs, but it leads to drugs like viagra. Turns out there isn't all that much money in life-saving drugs that you just take once and are done with the disease. Most of those were created by researchers who were just doing it for the science.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,200 reviews177 followers
December 7, 2020
2,5 звезди

Относително информативна за историята на различни субстанции като опиума и ваксината срещу едра шарка например. Хубаво е да се припомня контекстът, че често се забравя, особено за ваксините и каква е била смъртността преди тях. Както и че често се пробутват като еликсири недостатъчно проучени лекарства. Но имах чувството, че чета списание, а и част от нещата вече съм ги чела другаде.
Profile Image for Engin Yapici.
16 reviews
September 27, 2019
I'm listening to Chapter 2 and he just attributed all the great Persian medicine work to Arabs. He said Ibn Sina was an Arab. How ignorant are you? You don't even have the most basic fact about history of medicine and went on writing a full book? You should be ashamed of yourself. I'm returning the book.
Profile Image for Evan Wondrasek.
309 reviews22 followers
April 14, 2019
I decided to read this book because I was craving learning something new, and drugs are fascinating because I still don't really understand how they work. (One of my previous favorite books about drugs is Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich , which focuses on amphetamines and their prevalence in WWII.)

I loved this book. Deeply researched and well-written, it covered both the chemistry and especially the history and origins of many significant drugs, including opioids/opiates, anti-psychotics, and statins.

I especially appreciated some of the context the author provided about how drugs get marketed vs. their effectiveness, like statins. Although statins have a huge impact on lowering bad cholesterol - basically a miracle drug - that alone doesn't seem to make a significant difference in people dying of heart disease. And even though their side effects are minimal, they aren't zero. One of the examples he presents is that marketing for a name-brand statin suggests that, in clinical trials, it reduced incidences of heart disease by something like 33%. When he dug into the data, he found that they took a population of 400 patients, divided them into two groups of 200, then gave one group the statin and gave the second group a sugar pill placebo. In the group with the statin, 2 individuals had heart attacks. In the group with the placebo, 3 individuals had heart attacks. That was the basis for their marketing: if 3 people having heart attacks is "normal" with the placebo, and 2 people had heart attacks while on the statin, you apparently get a 33% reduction. Out of 400 people. That's some stretchy math right there; I might have said that the likelihood of a heart attack based on their data was 1% with the statin and 1.5% with the placebo, for a whopping reduction of 0.5%. And if I remember what I read correctly, that reduction is pretty close to the increased chance you get of developing diabetes while on statins. So: it's complicated.

This book covered other topics like the comparative over-medication of Americans vs. people from other countries, how the development of medicines transitioned from unlocking all of the "low-hanging fruit" in the 19th and 20th centuries and new drugs are extremely complex and expensive to develop, and where the author thinks drugs are going in the future. (These books always end with a obligatory "let's muse about the future" chapters, which I'd honestly prefer they just stopped doing -- it's just begging for the book to sound quaint and outdated in the near future.)

Since finishing this book, I went on to read another popular book by Thomas Hagar called The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler which was of similar high quality.

I'd be up for reading this again in the future, although I'd probably be more interested in digging deeper into a specific drug to learn more about the chemistry aspects rather than the historical.
Profile Image for Steve.
513 reviews22 followers
November 12, 2018
A wonderful book on drugs and their impact on society

I had read “Alchemy of Air” by Thomas Hager and so I had high expectations for “10 Drugs” and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. The book has everything I like: clearly explained medicine and science, lots of history, and social implications of the drugs. Hager’s appraisal is honest - he thinks drugs are a good thing but that the drug companies are much less so. Hager is a great writer, and as with some of the drugs in the book, his writing is addictive. The book was hard to put down. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in medicine and its history.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.

Profile Image for Abhijeet Singh.
47 reviews24 followers
July 23, 2020
Very well researched. Is exactly what it promises to be: A collection of 10 very well written essays about how the medical/pharma industry came to be what it is.
Specifically, I was fascinated by the chapters on monoclonal antibodies, smallpox and the opium wars.
Profile Image for Júlia Molina.
17 reviews3 followers
October 18, 2021
Molt guai, aquest llibre t’explica la història que hi ha darrere de grans descobriments de la Farmacologia. Et posa en context de la situació social, econòmica i política del moment, i veus com era la vida dels/les científics/ques en diferents èpoques. Convida a reflexionar, és crític amb la Big Pharma, i t’ajuda a entendre grans problemes a nivell internacional (tot i que parla bastant dels EUA, ja que tenen una relació amb els fàrmacs que és too much, com amb tot). El millor capítol és el de El Monstruo de Lady Mary, que parla del descobriment de la vacuna de la verola, flipes. Així que guai, pot ser et calen una mica de nocions científiques per gaudir-lo, però crec que al públic general també els pot agradar, si els hi interessa el tema.
Profile Image for Blake Roche.
177 reviews6 followers
April 19, 2019
I love Thomas Hager's other books, The Demon Under the Microscope and The Alchemy of Air. They're some of my favorite nonfiction writing and I regularly recommend them to friends. But this one is WEIRD. I'm not sure what happened here, but there's just a lot wrong. The author leads early on with the fact that his publisher recommended the idea. I'm not sure if his resulting ideas were guided heavily by them or whether he just had to rush to get this out...but this is definitely his least thorough and least interesting book. The author also mentions in the intro how he writes about MORE than just the 10 drugs in the title...but I'd honestly recommend a new title - "TWO DRUGS that I wanna talk about (opiates and statins), with a few other short stories sprinkled in there to throw you off my trail." Seriously. A full HALF of this book is about opiates and opioids, or at least it felt that way. Sure they're interesting, but it just seems like a long-winded, publisher-driven, pandering-to-the-public over a current outcry blog post. The other chapters are interesting in their small doses (chlorpromazine, smallpox inoculation, and MoAbs), but just as I thought we'd gotten away from opiates, here he comes back with a diatribe on their dangers and commentary on their place in society today. I just don't get it. He ends the book (probably a good quarter) with another blog-post-esque chapter on statins. I can easily see this anger and contrary attitude being the impetus for the entire book as well. The whole thing just feels like a weirdly biased rant about pharmaceuticals with a few interesting stories and facts in between. I've always appreciated Hager's ability to transform bland scientific facts and research into a moving narrative, but here it's just disconnected and agenda-driven. The worst of his books, but still an interesting read I suppose. Check it out? Maybe? Or not.
Profile Image for Niena Aniesza.
108 reviews6 followers
October 29, 2021
"Wrapped in this evolution and guiding its trajectory is humanity’s search for magic bullets, medicines that can unerringly seek out and destroy diseases in our bodies without doing any harm to our health along the way. The goal has always been to find medicines that are all-powerful, but without any risk. That is likely an impossible goal. We haven’t yet found a perfect magic bullet."

Tiada saintis yang tidak mahu membuat ubat-ubatan yang tiada kesan sampingan. Tetapi seperti yang kita ketahui, badan kita mengandungi bahan kimia, ubat itu juga mengandungi bahan kimia. Apabila bahan kimia bertindak balas dengan bahan kimia lain, pasti ada kesan yang kita ingini dan tidak ingini.

Sangat banyak sumbangan sarjana Islam dalam bidang sains dan perubatan. Kaedah inokulasi mula dilakukan oleh saintis Muslim. Pada abad ke-18, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu cuba membawa kaedah inokulasi dari dunia Islam ke Eropah, dia ditolak mentah-mentah kerana orang Eropah menganggap Muslim sebagai golongan barbaric. Walaupun kaedah ini sangat berkesan bagi merawat penyakit cacar ketika itu, wujud juga golongan anti-inokulasi (nenek moyang kepada golongan anti-vaksin pada hari ini).

Anti-vaksin wujud di Eropah kerana beberapa faktor. Selain kerana tidak suka mengikut apa yang orang Islam buat, tindakan merawat itu sendiri dianggap unChristian, kerana hidup mati seseorang hanya boleh ditentukan oleh Tuhan. Oleh kerana vaksinasi diarahkan oleh pemerintah, sebahagiannya menolak untuk divaksinasi kerana alasan politik. Daripada kaedah inokulasi kemudiannya hadir pula perkataan vaksinasi (dari perkataan Latin iaitu vacca). Seiring dengan kejayaan vaksin, doktor dan saintis Eropah mula berminat membuat kajian dan berkembangnya teknik yang lebih baik pada hari ini.

Dalam buku ini penulis memilih sepuluh jenis penyakit dan rawatannya. Bagi setiap bab, dibentangkan tentang sejarah, perkembangan dan kepentingan perubatan. Antaranya adalah opium, heroin, ubat batuk seperti sulfa, ubat sakit jantung, viagra dan ubat perancang kehamilan, antibiotik serta beberapa ubat-ubatan yang lain. Dunia penyelidikan sains dipenuhi dengan trial and error, dalam proses memajukan dunia perubatan, betapa banyaknya haiwan yang terkorban, termasuk juga manusia.

Buku ini menarik bagi yang mahu memahami dan menambahkan kefahaman berkaitan ubat-ubatan serta peranan big pharma. Ubat-ubatan telah menjadi sebahagian dari hidup kita pada hari ini.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book27 followers
June 18, 2020
An interesting approach to important drugs in the history of medicine. With its emphasis on medicine as opposed to other aspects of the impact of drugs on the modern world, this one is different from others I’ve read the past. The discussion of statins was informative. Also, I knew nothing about monoclonal antibodies, so that was educational as well.

He mentions the so-called “war on drugs” in this book and lists a number of reasons for it, but fails to mention the racist agenda behind the way these draconian drug laws were, and often still are, enforced. Of course, to be fair, that isn’t really what this book is about though it still feels like an oversight.

The author discusses both the benefits and the harms of large drug companies investing billions of dollars while motivated primarily by profit. He seems somewhat optimistic that, in the end, those challenges will eventually be overcome. They might be. Perhaps the future of what pharmaceuticals can do for humanity is bright. I certainly hope so.

This book is well written and is a valuable and fascinating read.
Profile Image for Katie.
549 reviews7 followers
February 14, 2022
3.5 Stars!

I read Ten Drugs for non-fiction book club.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. It starts with the history of Opium and how it has been used since the Roman Times to how it became part of codeine and morphine. Then we had a chapter about how morphine was used in wars, which was also a very fascinating chapter. It transitions into the smallpox vaccine. We learn about the how addictive these drugs are and how these drugs caused overdoses and led to a method of suicide.

The second part of the book was still very educational, but I didn’t find the chapters about Viagra, statins, and monoclonal antibodies as interesting as the first half of the book. I would say the author did a very good job staying neutral on the topics that he discussed, but I felt that the chapter on statins had more personal opinions interjected. That could be why I didn’t enjoy that part as much as the other parts of the book that felt very well researched.

Something that really stood out to me was how great the author’s introduction chapter was. I was pulled in immediately! I also really enjoyed the writing in this book. I didn’t find it boring or dry, and I learned so much from every chapter. I just preferred the first half so much more than the second half. (personal preference thing) I also loved hearing about how some of the biggest discoveries in medicine came to be, and how some of them were accidents.

I’m glad I read this book! It makes me want to read more about the history of drugs and vaccines.
Profile Image for Corina.
20 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2020
O começo é muito legal, mas depois é só mais do mesmo e chuva de informações. É como a gabi (minha namorada) falou: "julgando só pela a capa parece um daqueles documentários rasos da netflix)
Profile Image for Leslie.
12 reviews
March 28, 2019
Every time we take a pill, a shot or vaccination, we rarely think about how it was created, it’s history or the motivation behind it. We take what we need, what we don’t need, and try to keep going about our lives. Thomas Hager breaks down the timeline throughout history on how we got to where we are today through his book, Ten Drugs, by focusing on ten drugs (with a number of honorable mentions) starting with the source of what you could argue started it all: opium.

Hager made it very clear in the beginning that the book was written for those who did not have a background in science or medicine. Because of this, the book wasn’t heavy on science or medical terms, was filled with interesting facts and was easy to connect to. Medication, with all the good and bad sides to it, is a fascinating subject and this book made a lot of things clearer. It also was humorous at times to learn how certain medications were discovered and how the anti-vaxxers movement started long before any of us alive today where even born.

My fascination with Big Pharma and how prescription medication became a big business had me intrigued to read this book, but now knowing the history and all of the pioneers that have done a lot of good, tried to do a lot of good, and that have done it for the profit made me understand why our society today is greatly influenced by this industry. By the end of the book, I felt the same way as the author. I am grateful and excited for the future of medicine, but personally, I would rather a lot of the focus be turned to eradicating and preventing diseases instead of life-long drug use in order to deal with the symptoms of whatever ailment a person may have and constantly trying to find the next big blockbuster drug.
Profile Image for Mia.
262 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2019
I loved this one.

It's not a science book per se, if you're looking for chemical structures and detailed descriptions of certain drugs, this may disappoint you. It's written like a novel and the author has a great, engaging way to present information.

I got goosebumps at times because you're really feeling with these people and their discoveries (even if it all happened so long ago). Sometimes it's just a tad cheesy, but that was fine for me, I love this. It stays in your mind (especially the Chapter about Lady Mary Montague, which is extremely fitting even today.)

The drugs he choose were very interesting as well as the stories behind them, with a huge focus on opioids and the current addiction crisis in the US.

So if you read the Introduction, which is a fantastic start to know what you're in for, because the author tells you exactly what his book is / isn't, and like it, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book.

Profile Image for Thanawat.
436 reviews
November 10, 2021
ใช้ได้เลย ผู้เขียนเล่าเรื่องเก่งมาก เล่าเรื่องที่ยากในระดับนึงอย่างประวัติศาสตร์ที่มาที่ไปของการค้นพบยา ที่ผู้เขียนเลือกขึ้นมาให้เข้าใจได้ไม่ลำบากนะนัก
แน่นอนว่ามันต้องมีเรื่องเฉพาะทาง ศัพท์เทคนิก และเนื้อหาบางส่วนที่ background ผู้อ่านมีความสำคัญ
แต่ผู้เขียนก็พยาบามเต็มที่ที่จะอธิบายให้เข้าใจ โดยไม่ได้พยายามจะ oversimplify หรือใส่ metaphore แบบแปลกๆ เข้ามา

จุดที่ทำให้ไม่ได้ชอบแบบเต็มที่ ไม่ใช่วิธีการเล่าการอธิบาย
แต่เป็นการที่เกือบครึ่งหนึ่งของ ten drugs อุทิศให้การเล่าเรื่อง opioid and derivatives
ไม่ว่าจะเป็น opium, opiate, morphine, heroine, pethidine
เรียกได้ว่าเหมือนจะ obscess กับเรื่องนี้มาก

ส่วนยาอื่นๆ ในเล่ม ไม่ว่าจะเป็น pills, viagra, small pox vaccine, statin, sulfa, penicillin, monoclonalantibody ก็เล่าได้อย่างดีทีเดียว

สงสัยว่าผู้เขียนจะอยู่ในกลุ่ม anti-statin เพราะเรื่อง statin หรือยาลดไขมัน ผู้เขียนเล่าได้สนุก เพราะ relate กับตัวผู้เขียนเอง ที่ถูกหมิสั่งให้กิน statin แล้วก็กลับไปค้น ไป review จนได้คำตอบว่าจะตกลงปลงใจกินรึเปล่า
Profile Image for Kyle Muntz.
Author 8 books114 followers
September 11, 2020
Read most of this in one night. It's a great survey of medical history, which (aside from the usual suspects) covered some important landmarks I've never read about before: heart medication, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, antibiotics, viagra, etc. All of these have much more interesting stories than I'd ever imagined. The book also, without entirely meaning to, shows the gradual birth of Big Pharma and the terrible creature it's become, plus an interesting look at how evolving attitudes towards patenting have affected the field as a whole.
Profile Image for T. Ngan.
65 reviews5 followers
March 29, 2022
เล่าสนุกเรื่องยา ในมุมที่กว้างกว่า ลึกกว่าที่เคยรู้ บางเรื่องถึงกับไม่แน่ใจว่า จริงหรือเปล่า ? เพราะที่เคยรู้มามันไม่ใช่นี่นา อย่างการถือกำเนิดของวัคซีน ไข้ทรพิษ เดี๋ยวต้องหาเวลาไปหาข้อมูลเองอีกที

เรื่องยาคุมก็ดี ไม่เคยรู้จุดเริ่มต้นมาก่อน
ไวอากร้า ก็มีหนทางที่ยาวนาน น่าสนใจไม่น้อยกว่าจะมาเป็นยาที่ขายดีสุดๆ

นอกจากนี้ หนังสือเล่มนี้ยังบอกเราว่า

เบื้องหน้ายา คือการช่วยเหลือผู้คน คือการแก้ปัญหาของมนุษย์ แต่อย่างไรเบื้องหลังก็คือ ธุรกิจ เงิน และผลประโยชน์

ด้านหนึ่ง คือประโยชน์ แต่ปฏิเสธไม่ได้เช่นกันว่า อีกด้านของเหรียญ ยาก็มีโทษเสมอ
Profile Image for Ernesto Lopez.
72 reviews69 followers
July 29, 2021
Está bien.

El libro te platica la historia de 10 importantes drogas que han cambiado la vida de la humanidad. El autor mismo explica su lógica para la selección de las 10 sustancias y si bien podría ser algo ambigua, creo que son buenos ejemplos. Las historias de cada una son muy interesantes y su documentación es impecable. Me agradó también que se mantiene en un punto muy neutro y científico con respecto a los avances medicinales. Si bien es notorio que este apoya los avances de técnicos, tiene ciertas críticas duras contra la industria farmacéutica de la misma manera.

Sólo sentí que fue algo corto para los temas que se trataron, pero sin duda un gran libro para curiosear un rato.
Profile Image for Nivetha.
83 reviews
March 13, 2021
A comprehensive review of drugs that changed medicine. Higher rating warranted if not for the chapter on statins. They do save lives & I fear some readers may be discouraged from believing that.
Profile Image for Diana Ishaqat.
82 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2023
The sequence is so smooth and enjoyable to read. I’ve learned a lot. Accessible, even entertaining despite the actual complexity of the subject. It’s a great one.
Profile Image for Sara.
497 reviews6 followers
February 15, 2021
Well written, agenda-less (not pro- or anti-big pharm), enjoyable read on 10 drugs that changed human history- from opiods to birth control, antibiotics to statins.

If you enjoy Mary Roach's books or books like The Disappearing Spoon (which has far more hard core science than this does), this is well worth your time.
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