ADVERSE REACTIONS by Thomas Maeder
Chloramphenicol, the antibiotic better known as Chloromycetin, was once hailed as the greatest drug since Penicillin. Then in 1952, Dr. Albe Watkins, a California general practitioner, inadvertently killed his own ten-year-old son with this drug. After consulting with other physicians, Dr. Watkins learned Chloromycetin was not as safe as all the Parke-Davis literature claimed it to be. In some patients, the drug caused aplastic anemia. He wrote a letter to the drug maker, Parke Davis, and received a cold response discounting his suggestion that Chloromycetin might be to blame for his sonís death. Upset and disgusted by what he read, Dr. Watkins set out with his wife on a cross-country journey to visit random doctors along the way in search of other victims of this antibiotic. Eventually, Dr. Watkins presented his findings to the FDA which led to one of the most extensive investigations in medical history.
Of all the books Iíve read about drug dangers, this is one of the most intricately detailed.
There are 57 pages of references at the back. The author interviewed hundreds of people and left no stone unturned to tell his story, which I could envision as a great feature length movie. The flyleaf says: ďAdverse Reactions tells a gripping and profoundly disturbing story about the limits of corporate responsibility, government regulation, and medical knowledge.Ē Having read this book, Iím surprised that somebody thought it appropriate to put what I consider a rather weak endorsement right on the front. Iím talking about a statement by Herbert Ley, Jr. M.D., M.P.H., former commissioner of the FDA. But maybe that was to get the attention of physicians.
One disturbing fact you learn is that some doctors seem to ignore reports of serious or even lethal side effects when a drug, under certain circumstances, has been considered a lifesaver. However, you also learn how lax many doctors can be in prescribing dangerous drugs for minor maladies when safer medications could have been used instead. This is a scenario that crops up in other books on medication dangers. Doctors are free to prescribe medications ďoff label.Ē This means although the FDA may not have approved a drug for your malady, if for some reason your doctor thinks it would be appropriate anyway, he can legally prescribe it.
Adverse Reactions was published back in 1994, yet there are still no reviews for it at Amazon.com - Does this say something about how few people read these kinds of books? Is it perhaps a sad statement about how willingly the general public accepts what doctors tell them? Or did this book just not get marketed very well? At any rate, you can find nice used copies in hardcover for under 2 dollars here.
Articles about the danger of Chloromycetin:
The Danger of Chloramphenicol ( Chloromycetin ) in Milk
Adverse effects of Chloramphenicol ( Chloromycetin )