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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  729 ratings  ·  121 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  729 ratings  ·  121 reviews

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Start your review of Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine
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. (view spoiler)

In one way this is very good for us all, the most profitable drugs will be those that do something amazing, like antibiotics, painkillers,
Peter Tillman
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
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Evan Wondrasek
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: would-read-again
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
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Ten Drugs is as informative as it is entertaining.

The history of ten drugs or family of drugs and the influence on medicine and society they had is at the core of this book.

The financial aspects of the pharmaceutical industry were what I found most interesting.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
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
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A history of pharmacology that spotlights 10 drugs. Each drug is marketed as a wonder only to be undone by its side effects. Pros and cons to each one, yet it seems like people think there will still be a "magic bullet." Excellent.
Dan Connors
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books
This 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
Hazel Bright
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This one had me quoting it for about a week. When I offered to loan my copy to my husband, he said he didn't need to read it since I surely had recited most of the book to him already. I gave it to him anyway. Fun and fascinating.

One quibble: while the author correctly notes that statin drugs work well to reduce blood cholesterol and do little to reduce death from heart disease, he also says that one of the problems with statins is that people use them irresponsibly, and use their statin intake
Many more than ten drugs are touched on. Lots of informative information. Covers how makers began tinkering with dye structures to form molecules to test for drug affects. Also how much has depended on serendipity in drug searching. Provides a good understanding of why current manufacturers aren't in the business of solving health problems, but are in the business of making money. A good book to read.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although Americans make up 5% of the world's population, they are consuming 50% of the drugs. This is a good book on the history of well known drugs, like opium, morphine, heroin, opioids, antibiotics, birth control pills, and Viagra. Much of it is told as stories about how the creators found or made the drugs.
Katie Finch
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honestly just a great book. Super informative, well-written, and well-organized. It read absolutely beautifully. I wish this had been my summer reading for pharmacy school instead of the garbage they gave us.
Blake Meredith
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading. This book delivers a clear-eyed view of drugs and the pharmaceutical industry by using some of history’s most important drugs as examples. This book is particularly interesting for those who are concerned by the current opioid crisis.
Adam Yoshida
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Solid Popular History

The book is a loud popular history of the development of modern pharmaceutical drugs. It is particularly solid and enjoyable in its earlier sections, as it details the evolution of various opiates and modern opioids. Likewise, it tells some fairly unknown stories (at least to me) in talking about portions of the earlier history of antibiotics and anti-psychotics. It does lag slightly (and become somewhat political) in the final section, as the drug evolution story
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
I listened to the audiobook. The narrator was very good. I found the book very interesting. I really enjoyed the stories about how various drugs were discovered & their early uses. There were just a few spots that could have been shorter & where the author spent too much time injecting his personal opinion.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book. The author is an excellent writer who generates suspense with each chapter as he delves into the history behind each drug without at first telling the reader the name of the particular drug he’s leading up to.

You will learn about the politics, history and science of opium and all it’s very addictive derivatives. You will learn about a precursor to the smallpox vaccine brought back to England in the 1700s from Constantinople by Lady Montegue, the Princess of Wales,
Anett Kovacs
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley.

Ten Drugs by Thomas Hager is a fascinating account of 10 drugs/classes of drugs that defined not only the history of medicine, as is suggested in the title, but also humanity's relationship with drugs throughout the last century. Amongst others, the author tells the story of opioids and the drug crises of yesteryear and today, the actual origins of vaccination, tales of antibodies and antibiotics, and the birth of Big Pharma. He narrates
Blake Roche
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

Ten Drugs is an entertaining, yet informative look at a number of drugs that have shaped medical history and today's world. This isn't a scholarly history of the pharmaceutical industry, but rather a collection of chapters about a variety of drugs that have shaped medical history. This book is a nicely written (and fascinating) introduction to the history of drug discovery and medicine, as well as
Carlos Martinez
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Ten Drugs that Shook the World! This is a really fun and interesting book, overflowing with neat facts about opiates, statins, antibiotics, antidepressants, monoclonal antibodies, and more. The writing is enjoyably casual and engaging, and the balance of not-too-challenging pop science and anecdote made it ideal for consumption in audiobook form. The author mainly restrains himself from drawing big bold conclusions relating to the pharmaceutical industry, but where he does so, his ideas are ...more
Achilleas Georgiou
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
A nice review of a few basic drugs, some which have been around for millennia, such as opium.
It illustrates how our view of drugs has changed during only a few hundred years. Drugs such as opium were not viewed as addictive, as any reasonable person they believed could live their whole lives with controlled amounts and no side effects. Alcohol on the other hand was viewed as the killer drug. Now we have a different opinion about this although opium IS addictive and dangerous, alcohol is not
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a disclaimer, I won this book as part of a giveaway.

I found Ten Drugs to be readable, informative, and engaging. Hager starts from the beginning both historically and chemically, so anyone without a base of knowledge in either of those areas won't feel left out. Additionally, his style adds to the books accessibility by putting things in plain language and eschewing references for the sake of brevity (for better or worse). Despite my prior ignorance, I now feel like I can use monoclonal
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Though written in a style appealing to a layman, Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine by Thomas Hager provides a good understanding of how certain drugs evolved through the ages – a whodunnit with just enough technical information. It chronicles the discovery of a drug, (whether accidental or a product of research), its successes (always hyped) and failures (seldom acknowledged) in treating various conditions. The author does not come out as being overly ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hager traces the origins of 10 drugs (and classes of drugs) that have shaped medical history. From opium, the original “joy plant,” with a 10,000 years of human usage, to knockout drops, the first antibiotic, the first antipsychotic, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. Medical history is a tale of relief and drug abuse, of governmental crack down or permissiveness, the progress of science and the business of pain relief.

Why I started this book: I love the current
Manav Karkara
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, history, biology
This was a super-interesting read. Author Thomas Hager writes with a very engaging and easy-to-follow style.
As the title implies, this book is the story of ~10 modern drugs; their histories, and their impacts on society.
He starts the book with opium, telling the story of its initial discovery, along with the devastating impact on the societies where its use became widespread. He also mentions the resulting Opium Wars.
He then moves on to discussing smallpox, and its catastrophic history. He
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical
"At the very least, you'll take a little closer look at anything you're taking now or in the future"

A very interesting look into 10-ish drugs (touches on a little more than 10), their impetus, development, marketing, sales, and legacy. And even though chemistry is a very difficult science to grasp (hardest class I took in college), author Thomas Hagar handily breaks down the act of breaking-down and building-up the molecules that are some of the most prolific, recognizable, and life-altering
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