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Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine

de Thomas Hager

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1895147,745 (3.94)3
"Beginning with opium, the "joy plant," which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book."--Page [2] of cover.… (més)
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Es mostren totes 5
I read this as a part of a buddy read with my dad. While there was history and science and anecdotes that I enjoyed, the whole "ten things" framing device felt artificial and didn't seem to fit the subject well, given just how many of these drugs were opiates/opioids at thus related to each other. This made some of the structuring and repetition of information feel slapdash and arbitrary. It took me out of the narratives and reminded me this is definitely a book somebody wrote for a paycheck. (Not that people shouldn't get paid! Or be motivated by money!)

I did learn interesting things! Just didn't love the format. ( )
  greeniezona | Nov 19, 2023 |
This book is popular science writing done well. It’s enjoyable, informative, almost compulsively readable, and leaves you wanting more. It has crisp, clear explanations of science and medicine, and a broad overview of the history of drug discovery and development.
Thomas Hager somehow accomplishes all this with very little jargon, which given the topic is an amazing feat. You come away with a good understanding of drug history and some sense of the important categories of drugs and drug discovery. And did I mention that it’s fun to read?

You can guess that I loved this book. It wasn’t a book I had heard much about, and I picked it up on a whim.

I hadn’t heard of the author before, either. Thomas Hager has a master’s degree in medical microbiology and immunology, but says he figured out that lab research wasn’t for him, and went back to school to get a master’s in journalism. That background makes him very well suited to write a book like this one.

Though the title implies he’ll cover ten drugs, he spends his ten chapters telling the history of classes of drugs. The first chapter does focus on opium, one of the first drugs for which we have documentation. It’s mentioned by Greek historians and in Homer’s Odyssey, where Helen makes a sleeping potion likely based on the sap of the opium poppy.

The remaining chapters take us through various drugs and treatments (he even covers vaccination) all the way up to today’s monoclonal antibodies. The Epilogue talks about where drug development may be headed from here. Along the way you learn about the popularity of “knock out” drugs in the 1920s, how heroin used to be marketed as a cough suppressant, how antibiotics were discovered, the miraculous impact of “mind drugs”, the cultural changes wrought by the Pill, and more.

One chapter discusses Big Pharma’s quest for a pain relieving pill without the addictive power of opium or its derivatives, the opiates. Unfortunately, every discovery they made proved to be more addictive than the one before it, leading to the opioid crisis of today.

As with most of popular science, there is a lot on Hager’s chosen topic that doesn’t get covered. This book is giving us the surface of a much larger ocean. Most notable for me in that regard is the lack of history of many of the companies that we collectively call “Big Pharma” today. I worked for a large health care manufacturer myself for a number of years. One of their products is mentioned in this book, but the name of the company doesn’t appear anywhere within it’s pages.

That doesn’t mean Hager doesn’t help us understand the rationale behind Big Pharma’s drive for new products. He spends a good part of his chapter on statins discussing the money-making nature of the drug business. There is a reason why we are marketed drugs that don’t cure a disease but instead manage symptoms, and the reason is money.

You will use a drug that cures disease only until you’re cured. A drug that manages symptoms is one you’ll take for a long period - even for the rest of your life. As Hager points out, there’s more money to be made from the lifelong drug than from the short use drug. It’s true that both types of drugs address needs we may have. The fact is though that curative drugs don’t get the research dollars as often because they don’t have the monetary return.

I found this book to be a very well told overview of the history of drug making and modern medicine. I give Ten Drugs Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. ( )
  stevesbookstuff | Feb 9, 2022 |
A great, very effective romp through some not obvious medications and drugs that have changed the way we practice medicine and look at the world. Recommended. ( )
  aadyer | Nov 8, 2021 |
For starters, I should declare that I’m not the target audience for Ten Drugs. As Thomas Hager mentions in the introduction, this is not a book for drug scientists. However, I still really enjoyed it and found it much easier to read than a lot of ‘drug science’ books! This is a narrative book about ten drugs that have shaped history and medicines. They may not be the most expensive drugs, nor the most lifesaving. Nor are all of them ‘sexy’ drugs. Some just do a job in the background and do it very well.

I’m not going to detail what all of the drugs covered in this book are because that would spoil the fun of guessing what they are (and if your list aligns with Hager’s – but beware that the blurb on the back gives you a lot of hints if you decide to play). The first chapter goes way back in history to discuss opium and the role it has played through the ages. For me, this was my least favourite because I’m not really into ancient history. However, it (like all the other chapters) is incredibly well researched and puts together a great timeline of the major events in history. From the next chapter on, I found the story incredibly interesting as Hager discussed antibiotics, antipsychotics, statins and monoclonal antibodies. The chapter on monoclonal antibodies explains the concept brilliantly as well as covering the applications of them in medicine.

There are lots of great titbits in the chapters that you can use to entertain (or annoy) your friends about certain drugs, their discovery and their claims to fame. Hager also covers each drug without prejudice or drama (yes Big Pharma is mentioned, but it’s not a focus of the book). He devotes care and time to explaining the details, doing detailed research and making each subject really interesting. So yes, a drug scientist can thoroughly enjoy this book too. It’s like putting a name and background to drugs used in practice – and so much more memorable. ( )
  birdsam0610 | Oct 17, 2020 |
NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

Ten Drugs is an entertaining, yet informative look at a number of drugs that have shaped medical history and today's world. This isn't a scholarly history of the pharmaceutical industry, but rather a collection of chapters about a variety of drugs that have shaped medical history. This book is a nicely written (and fascinating) introduction to the history of drug discovery and medicine, as well as providing information on how the pharmaceutical industry evolved and functions. Each chapter deals with a specific group of drugs and are bound together by common themes such as drug evolution, growth of the pharmaceutical industry, changing public attitudes and changes in medical practices and laws. Chapters are devoted to the following topics: opium; smallpox and vaccinations; chloral hydrate (the first totally synthetic drug and original date rape drug); herion, opiates and addiction; the not so "magic bullet" antibiotics; antipsychotics; lifestyle drugs, viagra, and birthcontrol; opioids; statins; and monoclonal antibodies. The book concludes with a look at the future of drugs, with personalized and digitized medicine.

Hager states that this book is aimed at people who know a little about drugs and want to learn more. In this regard, Hager has succeeded in writing a book that is (in my opinion) accessible, entertaining, informative and interesting, to the general public. I particularly appreciated the author's (mostly) objective and clear writing style. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Es mostren totes 5
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"Beginning with opium, the "joy plant," which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book."--Page [2] of cover.

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