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the antidote book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

In his book, The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma, Barry Werth uses extensive research to follow the bio-pharmaceutical company, Vertex, from its infant stage through the next twenty years. Using his skills as a successful journalist, he goes behind the scenes to discover the step by step process involved in starting a successful drug company, bringing a new medicine to market and the lives of the dedicated scientists that make such breakthroughs possible. Primarily, this book focuses on two drugs, one for Hepatitis C and the other for Cystic Fibrosis. Both were huge advances for people suffering from these conditions.

I was interested in this book as a way to understand what goes on behind the scenes in pharmaceutical companies and a bit about the process of creating new drugs. However, I do not have a science background. As it turns out, that was a bit of a disadvantage! As Werth lays out the extensive efforts involved to bring a new product to the public, scientific terminology is heavily used making this read a bit of a challenge. However, he goes far beyond that to discuss complex processes of deciding which drugs to pursue, the collaboration of various scientists, testing, manufacturing, legal components and marketing efforts.

Werth’s experience as a journalist is clear as the entire book is heavily footnoted with primary sources including many interviews with important people. As consumers, most of our interactions with pharmaceuticals stem from our need to treat a condition or medical problem. If a drug is new, it may have a hefty price tag that seems unreasonable and unaffordable. However, the information in this book truly educates the consumer to understand the entire process involved with bringing those medicines to the masses. It is insightful and helpful in that respect. As I said earlier, some of the language and scientific background is a little complex. While any interested consumer may find value in reading this book, those who enjoy reading more technical expos will gain the greatest benefit from Barry Werth’s research.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.