Bob H's Reviews > Code Blue: Inside America's Medical Industrial Complex

Code Blue by Mike Magee
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it was amazing
bookshelves: medical, politics, social-history, science, history

A detailed, and damning, look at what Dr. Magee calls the Medical-Industrial Complex, the manufacturing, marketing and lobbying groups that, through the 20th Century and into the 21st, made American medicine into the expensive monster that it is today, albeit delivering lower life expectancy than much of the developed world. We learn, indeed, that it is a drag on American prosperity, "the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness" with its expenses and cost-ineffectivity.

There's more, however, and Dr. Magee shows us some of the more egregious examples: the early trend of aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies, who deployed legions of salesmen to doctors' offices with incentives and free samples when the drugs' damaging (or sometimes lethal) side-effects were not fully known, as well as more marketing by groups like the AMA against government efforts like national health care in Truman's day, and against Medicare a generation later. We see the culture of "big ticket research and development" instead of a combined health plan, and the institutional distortions at agencies like the National Institutes of Health. We see the use of medical research as a screen for the tobacco industry.

The book, more and more, focuses on abuses in pharmaceuticals, since medicine is often pill-driven. The appearance of ADHD as a known syndrome would prompt hyping of drugs such as benzedrine, and, later, Ritalin and Adderall as over-used, and profitable, cure-all nostrums.

The book is especially timely now (spring 2019) with a major new lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals and the Sackler family. Dr. Magee shows how much industry lobbying and hype overall had contributed to the opioid epidemic, one that would leave a trail of addiction and thousands of deaths. Dr. Magee also talks about the offshoring of unproven or untested therapies and drugs in Third-world countries like Nigeria, a situation hinted at in the book and film "The Constant Gardener." He also tells of the promotional and institutional changes wrought by the Viagra marketing craze.

There's more: the encroachment of "faith based" health policy, notably during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a convenient alliance between AIDS activists and pharmaceuticals to rush drug treatments. We see more religious opposition in fields like stem cell research.

Finally, we learn of some surprising alliances between advocacy groups and the industry, first in pushing Medicare Part D, and later, Obamacare.

It's a sordid, infuriating and illuminating work by a physician who had worked in hospital administration, and then in a senior position at Pfizer. And it's timely. Highest recommendation.

(Reviewed in advance reading copy by Amazon Vine.)
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Reading Progress

February 26, 2019 – Started Reading
February 26, 2019 – Shelved
February 26, 2019 – Shelved as: medical
February 26, 2019 – Shelved as: politics
February 26, 2019 – Shelved as: science
February 26, 2019 – Shelved as: social-history
February 26, 2019 – Shelved as: history
March 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

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