Book Review - Blood Feud: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever by Kathleen Sharp
As I grow ever older, I find myself getting more and more upset over political lies and corporate greed. I was offered a chance to read and review an advance reader copy of Blood Feud: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever by Kathleen Sharp, and now I'm just flat-out furious. Sharp does an excellent job documenting the story of Mark Duxbury, the one-time employee of Johnson & Johnson and the whistleblower on a massive fraud committed by J&J and Amgen over their anti-anemia drug. This story has it all... greed, fraud, government waste, arrogance, conspiracy... What's worse, I'm sure this story could be and is repeated every day, unbeknown to the public, on a scale that would stagger us if we ever learned the full truth.
Mark Duxbury was a star drug salesman for J&J's biotech division, Ortho. He was tasked with selling Procrit, which was Amgen's new anti-anemia drug. They licensed part of the business to Ortho, while they kept the other part and sold the drug under the brand names Epogen and Aranesp (yes, the same "epo" that is used as a performance-enhancing drug). The relationship between Amgen and Ortho was not a happy one, as each side attempted to encroach on the others' legally defined sales and usage areas. Duxbury was legally prevented from selling to dialysis doctors and clinics, but the verbal order from Ortho was to convert as many doctors and facilities as possible, as the company couldn't be responsible for what the doctors used the drugs for once they were purchased. On top of that, Ortho had incredibly lucrative financial incentives for doctors to buy or switch, many of which skirted or demolished ethical and legal guidelines. During one of many court cases between the two companies, Duxbury was subpoenaed to testify. Although his testimony was not damaging in the areas he expected, Ortho decided he was too much of a risk and knew too much. Thus started his descent into corporate hell...
Ms. Sharp weaves a narrative that is as spellbinding as a conspiracy novel. The sad part is that it's actually true. Duxbury had to deal with unrealistic sales quotas, falsified complaints, psychotic managers, and personal slander. He's fired, his health is destroyed, and he's denied disability payments from the company. His first wife had her own problems and prevented him from seeing his daughter. His second wife also felt the strain of the pressure he was under, and soon home isn't even a sanctuary. The author brings out all the players in vivid detail, and I couldn't put the book down (nor forget what Duxbury went through).
What impacted me most was the anger I felt after reading Blood Feud. The pharmaceutical companies flat-out lied about their drugs in order to get them on the market, they lied to regulators about what dosages were safe so they could sell more, and they lied to the public about the safety of the product. They were basically giving doctors low-cost or free drugs to get them to make large purchases, and then they'd instruct the doctors on how to bill Medicare and insurance companies to get high-end reimbursement for those same drugs. The government, when notified of this via the whistleblower suit, showed little motivation to go after Amgen or Ortho. And when faced with the reality of the number of deaths epo was causing, the FDA refused to pull the drug and instead simply required a watered-down warning and recommendation on usage. Oh, and the sales meetings and "seminars"? The extravagance and costs are beyond belief, and you know those costs are being fed back into what we are charged for medications via insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid. I won't be shedding any tears over drug companies complaining about lost profits based on generics coming onto the market. There is plenty of fat in those budgets...
Is it no wonder why health care in America is so broken?
I strongly recommend Blood Feud to anyone who really cares about what's happening in our society. While it focuses on a single case of corporate greed and fraud (and does so very well), it also shows what has become "business and government as usual" in today's healthcare market (and in corporate markets overall).
Obtained From: Publisher