Byers' death ignited a storm of outrage, and on this basis of the highly publicized event, the agency vigorously campaigned for a sweeping expansion of its powers. With the institution of new regulations, the radioactive patent medicine industry collapsed overnight.
Repeatedly within the narrative the reader sees the complex interface between science, personal emotion, and political demands. Hawthorne recounts the hearings over the reintroduction of thalidomide, when it was found in the late '80s to be an effective treatment against leprosy and certain forms of cancer.
In John W. Jackson's opinion, (chairman of Celegen, maker of thalidomide) the turning point came when a thalidomide victim took his turn at the microphone. "He was sitting in his wheel chair, and he gave a very impassioned speech — 'Who am I to deny these people the chance?' There were tears in the eyes of several people on the advisory committee. I felt the same way," Jackson said, as he dabbed his eyes six years later.
So the FDA, more than any other governmental agency, is moved by the pressure of emotional argument, at the same time trying to use the strongest science available to fulfill its charge of protecting the public's health and safety.
The book finishes with consideration of the invasion of drug advertising into the marketplace, frivolous and perhaps dangerous drugs, and the challenges that we can anticipate in the future for the FDA.
There is one shortcoming that I found in the book — there are no photographs of the heroes and villains that have carried on this epic battle for the hearts, minds, bodies, and pocketbooks of the American people. It would have been instructive to see images of this rogues' gallery that has profoundly influenced every aspect of our lives.
Aside from this minor grousing, I would recommend this fine book to anyone who wants to know more about the FDA.
K. John Morrow, Jr. Department of Research and Development, Meridian Bioscience, Inc. 3471 River Hills Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45144 Ph 513-271-3700 x 398, JMorrow@meridianbioscience.com