Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg by Doug Bremner

Accutane - the truth that had to be told

In 2001 Hoffman-La Roche's drug Accutane was selling in its billions worldwide as a treatment for acne. For those who suffered from extreme scarring acne, it was something of a miraculous treatment, however evidence started to mount that for others it was a death sentence. Over the next few years it was estimated that between 300 and 3,000 young people being prescribed Accutane since its launch had committed suicide or killed others.

In 2001 the father of young man in Ireland who had committed suicide approached Dr. Doug Bremner as Professor of Psychiatry & Radiology at Emory University to see if he could find a causal link between the drug and depression. His findings were that the drug did have an effect on the brain likely to cause acute depression in some patients, which was not surprising as it is a molecular cousin of Vitamin A which is known to cause depression in excessive quantities.

One might think that Hoffman-La Roche would have welcomed these findings. After all, no-one was doubting that Accutane was an extremely effective remedy in many cases, it was just that it appeared to have lethal side-effects in others.

You might like to think again on that one.


From page one, I was swept up into Doug's life.  He was determined to get Accutane off of the market, it was killing thousands.  Hoffman-La Roche, in turn, campaigned against Bremner to  stunt his research findings. Not only that, but to destroy his livelihood.  Not only is the reader granted entrance to the inside workings of pharmeceuticals, but Doug also gives us a deeper look into his own personal life.  His professional struggles crossed over into his life and affected it deeply. 

This is almost two books in one - one the campaign to get Hoffman-La Roche to pull their drug but the second being Doug's life.  However, the author does a superb job of inter-lacing the two into a page-turning read.  Not only did I learn more about Doug and but I really got an in-depth look into pharmaceutical companies and it's not all glam.  They will do anything to keep the golden egg from breaking - anything.   Well worth a read!

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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