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Dispensing with the Truth : The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen

by Alicia Mundy, published by 2002-08-20 (St. Martin's Griffin)

Buy now from Amazon.com for $14.95
Amazon rating of 4.5 out of 5, Amazon sales rank: 603233

Editor's Review:

Mary Linnen, 29, was determined to lose 25 pounds before her wedding. In May 1996, her doctor prescribed a combination of drugs known as Fen-Phen. When Linnen complained of dizziness and shortness of breath 23 days after starting the medications, her doctor told her to stop the drugs--but didn't examine her or order tests. Linnen got better for a time, then the shortness of breath and exhaustion returned worse than ever. Her legs and stomach swelled. She collapsed at work. Six months after taking Fen-Phen, Linnen was admitted to the emergency room with primary pulmonary hypertension: the capillaries that sent oxygen to her lungs had thickened and were closing, suffocating her. Her survival expectation after heart surgery was less than four years. Hooked up to a tube in her chest to prevent heart failure, she died three months later.

Dispensing with the Truth: The Battle over Fen-Phen tells the story of the legal battle against the pharmaceutical companies after Fen-Phen's users started dying--some, like Linnen, of primary pulmonary hypertension; others of heart valve damage. Investigative reporter Alicia Mundy weaves a dramatic tale from the development of the drugs to FDA approval to the final litigation. How much did the pharmaceutical companies know about the risks long before most of the deaths? Plenty, according to the evidence Mundy reveals. Although at times the book seems overfilled with details that slow down the drama, if you want the complete, behind-the-scenes story of one of the most famous "profits over protection" cases, this book tells all. --Joan Price In 1996, a terrible epidemic began. Thousands of young women were stricken and many of them died. Some died quickly, within a few months; others lasted a couple of years. Many of those who didn't die suffered damage to their hearts and lungs, much of it permanent. Doctors suspected what the killer was. So did the Food and Drug Administration. The culprit was one-half of the most popular diet drug combination on the market, Fen-Phen. It was produced and sold by a powerful pharmaceutical company, Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products.

Dispensing with the Truth is the gripping story of what the drug company really knew about its drugs, the ways it kept this information from the public, doctors, and the FDA and the massive legal battles that ensued as victims and their attorneys searched for the truth behind the debacle.

It tells the story of a healthy young woman, Mary Linnen, who took the drugs for only 23 days to lose weight before her wedding-and then died in the arms of her fiance a few months later. Hers was the first wrongful death suit filed and would become the most important single suit the company would face.

Award-winning investigative reporter Alicia Mundy provides a shocking and thoroughly riveting narrative account of the whole debacle. It is a stark look at the consequences of greed-and a cautionary tale for the future.

Reader Reviews:

This superb publication serves as an important guide for anyone who wants to know how drug companies operate and how trial lawyers help to uncover corporate dirt.

Preying on consumers and health care providers ,drug companies hype the benefits of their drugs, while hiding the dirt about the known dangers of their pills .

While Fen-Phen is now off the market, the manner in which the pharmaceutical companies operate in marketing and selling other drugs remains business as usual !

Tens of thousands of claimants have hit the jackpot with Phen-fen. Fraudulant claims are rampant and people like this claim moral high ground. Disgusting. Without tort reform, the drug industry will go down in flames. Who in their right mind would develop a drug for the severely obese now, as a group they are a high risk group anyway, possibly higher risk than any other, unhealthy and prone to disease...and their numbers are growing daily. Our legal system has brought access to new medicines to treat obesity to a new low, and subjected us all to their amoral "justice" at the expense of American jobs to boot. That is the real story!There have been a lot of words written about this combination that are simply WRONG. They have been taken in other countries
without problems and side-effects seen in this country and that is because of abuse. Fen-Phen was developed for use by diabetics
who have a harder time reducing than the regular guy and what's
more, when taken as prescribed, it not only did take the weight off, it regulated sugar levels so well, many diabetics were able
to come off insulin! There's where the real problem started - the
insulin manufacturers suddenly had competition. Then you had too
many doctors prescribing Fen-Phen for patients who wanted to drop
20 pounds who then upped the dosage on their own figuring it would work even better and faster...the result was the legal disaster we face now. Fen-Phen should never have been prescribed for anyone who wasn't at least 50lbs. overweight but it was handed out on a regular basis to anyone who asked right before it was removed from the market. For those who took Fen-Phen without any resultant problems this was just another slap in the face for
the obese who now have no other options but surgery or chronic
diarrhea. Stricter regulations on how this could be prescribed
would have prevented a lot of unnecessary deaths; Viagra has
killed far more people since it became available than Fen-Phen
ever did and yet it's still widely available. Food for thought?The book discusses several cases of Fen-Phen, the diet drug. The book goes through the history of the drug, the drug companies efforts to conceal the negative side-effects of the drugs. It continues on through the FDA approval process, how the drug companies paid for numerous studies to prove the drugs were safe and wrote articles and paid doctors to publish the articles in the doctor's names. On come the lawyers to protect the injured victims and the ones for the drug companies. The book even covers the power struggles between plaintiffs attorneys fighting among themselves.

As an attorney, I am inspired to grow my career into Plaintiff's drug litigation because the problems plaguing Fen-Phen will likely repeat.On a recommendation from the website for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, I purchased this book and was riveted from beginning to end. As a woman who takes medicine for depression, and has a sister who took Redux for two months, I found this book a true shocker and a well-told tale. Alicia Mundy arranges a vast amount of material and lays out a stark and gripping tale of how the FDA - many of whose members are on the drug companies' payrolls - approved Redux despite its proven history of making women (literally) deathly ill. I felt tremendous solidarity with the lawyers prosecuting the case, among them Alex MacDonald, who worked in tandem with his wife, Dr. Maureen MacDonald (a doctor specializing in anesthesia). Because it is a true story, Mundy's book does two things: one, it makes the readers (including myself) far more wary of the FDA and the drugs our doctors prescribe, and two, its story takes twists and turns no fiction book could plausibly get away with. If you take prescription medicine of any kind for any reason, read this book, and remember Mary Linnen the next time you think about buying weight-loss drugs.
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See also:
The Truth About the Drug Companies : How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It

The Worst Hard Time : The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

The Truth About the Drug Companies : How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It

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