A Drug by Any Other Name
Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine
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.”
Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind
Making a Splash
Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America
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.
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