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Book Report

A Drug by Any Other Name

By Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine

medical history
Jeremy A. Greene
Cover of Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine
Will Kirk

Jeremy A. Greene admits to a bias when he began researching the history of generic drugs for a book. He was a physician who regularly prescribed and took generic drugs. He gave them to his children and saw generics as a valuable alternative to expensive brand names. “I had thought that the generic drug industry had a moral gloss attached to it, that it was good and virtuous and part of a beneficial public-minded policy,” he says. Then Greene, a medical historian, researched the late 1980s, when several generic firms misled regulators with test samples of the actual brand-name drug instead of their generic. In one instance, a company simply sandpapered the pharmaceutical company’s logo off a pill and submitted it as its own creation. They got caught.

In Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), Greene uncovers the sometimes-sordid past of the generic drug business. In 1960, fewer than 10 percent of drug prescriptions in America were for generics. By 2010, that number had jumped to 80 percent. Today, generic drugs are a trillion-dollar industry. In 2012, Americans spent less on prescription drugs for the first time in almost six decades.

Greene’s research takes on everything from the mom-and-pop operations of the mid-20th century to the multinational corporations of today, airing all the dirty laundry, politics, and controversy along the way. But his intent was not to discredit the industry. Generics, he points out, are a rare success story in a health care industry bloated by inefficiency and expense.

“My goal was not to make people distrust the system but to suggest that it helps to be conscious of those systems and to insist on as much transparency as possible.”


Cover of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

David Linden

An engaging and often witty examination of how the sense of touch shapes our interaction with the world. Linden, a Johns Hopkins professor of neuroscience, lucidly explains how sensory and emotional context work together to distinguish between pleasure and pain. He argues that interpersonal touch is crucial to social bonding and individual development.
cover of Making a Splash

Making a Splash

Carol Reiley

Originally conceived as a gift for the author’s niece, the book advocates the growth mindset philosophy that says intelligence is malleable and can be developed through hard work. Reiley, a Johns Hopkins doctoral student studying surgical robotics, tells the story of how two siblings differ in their attitudes toward learning. The takeaway: It’s not how smart you are; it’s how smart you can become.
cover of Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working- Class Family in America

Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America

Andrew Cherlin

Drawing from more than a hundred years of census data, Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin offers a new historical assessment of how social and economic transformations have contributed to the collapse of a once-stable class and what this cultural shift means for the nation’s future.

5 Picks

Chris Kraft

Illustration of Chris Kraft

Relationship expert Chris Kraft offers his top five picks for anyone hoping to strengthen intimacy.


  1. Mating in Captivity

    Esther Perel
    Harper Perrenial (2007)
  2. What Do Women Want?

    Daniel Bergner
    ECCO (2014)
  3. The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work

    John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
    Harmoney (1999)
  4. The Myth of Sex Addiction

    David J. Ley
    Rownman & Littlefield (2014)
  5. A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships

    Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam
    Plume (2012)

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