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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring for attorneys
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...
Published on July 18 2002 by Wazu

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3.0 out of 5 stars an important story, but a disappointing book
I don't really understand the gushing enthusiasm of many of the previous reviewers. There are a lot of great books out there about corporations doing evil things to innocent people (A Civil Action, Civil Warriors, Bending the Law, Outrageous Misconduct, Agent Orange on Trial, Cornered), but Dispensing With the Truth simply is not among them.
Mundy's fundamental...
Published on Feb. 2 2002


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1.0 out of 5 stars No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides, May 28 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
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!
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Facts About The Drug Combo That DOES Work, March 11 2003
By A Customer
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?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring for attorneys, July 18 2002
By 
Wazu "probonolaw" (West Palm Beach, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book will make your blood boil!, June 7 2002
By 
Christine E. Haftl (Norwood, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Eye Opening, March 22 2002
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
I read this book based on suggestion from someone else. I would not have picked it up on my own. But I'm glad I did. It opened my eyes to the "business" of drugs and the profit surrounding it. It shattered my naive belief that a company producing drugs and an organization created to protect my safety would always do the right thing. It also was a good teaching element for how government, business, and the legal arm work in the pharmaceutical industry. At the end I felt for the average person who innocently takes a prescribed product. This book has made me forever wary.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!, Feb. 18 2002
By 
L Mayfield (Longview, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
Alicia Mundy weaves a horrific tale of AHP and the FDA that every person should seriously consider. This information is not only applicable to Fen-Phen users, but users of other drugs on the market that are currently under investigation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars an important story, but a disappointing book, Feb. 2 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
I don't really understand the gushing enthusiasm of many of the previous reviewers. There are a lot of great books out there about corporations doing evil things to innocent people (A Civil Action, Civil Warriors, Bending the Law, Outrageous Misconduct, Agent Orange on Trial, Cornered), but Dispensing With the Truth simply is not among them.
Mundy's fundamental error is her lack of confidence in the power of her story. Instead of letting the facts speak for themselves, she paints a heavyhanded, simplistic morality tale.
There is a fascinating and important story to be told here, but ultimately this book lacks the credibility to tell it effectively.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Important story, well-told, Dec 4 2001
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
This is a good read, especially in the beginning, but if you want to go beyond the courtroom drama and the legal aspects of the case, you have to read carefully. (Taking notes wouldn't hurt.) This is a complex story, and one has to admire Alicia Mundy's skill in managing it while spinning out an engaging narrative. She succeeds by concentrating on one case, that of 29-year-old Mary Linnen, an Orchard Park, New York woman, who developed primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) after using the Fen-Phen drug combination for a mere 23 days. There is no cure for PPH, and the treatments amount to something like sustained torture. Tragically, less than a year after diagnosis, Mary Linnen was dead.
Within her story, Mundy focuses on two main characters. One is the engaging and colorful Alex MacDonald, the lead attorney representing Mary Linnen's estate, who along with many others sued American Home Products, the parent company of Wyeth-Ayerst, the distributors of Pondimin and Redux (one half of the deadly Fen-Phen diet cocktail), for wrongful death; and the other is Leo Lutwak, a well-meaning but ineffectual administrator at the Food and Drug Administration. But I think the real story here is the corporate mentality inside the drug companies that led to the tragedy, and the incompetence at the FDA that allowed it. Although I think Mundy concentrates too much on the lawyers in her narrative (she indicates in the "Acknowledgments" that she was inspired by Jonathan Harr's lawyer-centered A Civil Action), she is still able to give a complete story, but it takes some real effort on the part of the reader to get it all. I had to take notes and flip back through the pages with the aid of the Index to keep Pondimin and its "sister" drug Redux separate from Phentermine, and to realize that it is the combination of Pondimin and Phentermine or the combination of Redux and Phentermine that is the deadly Fen-Phen combo. When one looks deeper it becomes apparent that Pondimin is the brand name for the drug fenfluramine and Redux for dexfenfluramine, the "Fen" in "Fen-Phen."
It's an important part of the story to realize that doctors prescribed Phentermine in combination with Pondimin because Pondimin alone led to unwanted drowsiness while Phentermine "was," as Mundy phrases it on page 39, "after all, a form of <speed>." The logic here, although not mentioned, is similar to that of the hugely successful Sudafed combination of the antihistamine Chlorpheniramine Maleate, which leads to drowsiness, and the nasal decongestant Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride, which counteracts that effect by speeding up your system.
Still, it's not clear why so people so eagerly gobbled up the Fen-Phen combo. Mundy indicates that part of the reason was a massive advertising and PR campaign spun out by the drug companies--she calls it "Obesity, Inc."--a campaign that made the never-proven claim that over 300,000 Americans, mostly women, die each year from the "disease" of obesity. The drug companies positioned themselves as wanting to save those lives. However, Mundy cites a study on page 155 showing that the long-term expected weight loss from using Fen-Phen was only about three percent above that of a placebo.
To me the most unsettling part of this story is the stupidity practiced by the FDA and by Wyeth in not realizing that Pondimin or Redux in combination with Phentermine was in its effects very similar to Aminorex, an appetite suppressant that caused a major epidemic of primary pulmonary hypertension, killing hundreds of people in Europe during the mid-1960s. (p. 38) Mundy quotes John Restaino, "a young doctor turned lawyer," as saying (p. 198), himself quoting an unidentified Swedish scientist, "When I saw the combination of Pondimin and Phentermine, Fen-Phen, I said, <My God, they've re-created Aminorex!>." (Incidentally, the lack of attribution for some of the text--there are no footnotes--is a disappointment.)
This bit of ignorance, perhaps willful, by Wyeth and the FDA was followed by a frenzy of greed when the drug companies realized the potential profits. This in turn was followed by attempts at obfuscation and cover-up, denial and feigned ignorance, when the deadly side effects became public knowledge. Ironically, it wasn't PPH that finally led to the withdrawal of the drugs, but another, also deadly side effect, that of heart valvular disease, uncovered by two Fargo, North Dakota residents, med tech Pam Ruff and cardiologist Jack Crary. To my mind, their story is the most important part of the book. Their unselfish and courageous work led to the withdrawal of the drugs and saved the lives of untold numbers of people.
Bottom line: this is an engaging read about a preventable tragedy and the triumph of litigation against a big corporation to be ranked with A Civil Action (the book, not the so-so movie) and the Erin Brockovich story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Page-Turner, Aug. 29 2001
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
This book will make you furious, and it will make you think twice (or three or four times) about the drugs you take, especially ones that have only recently been approved by the FDA. Alicia Mundy tells the story very well and has you on the edge of your seat much of the time. I'm not usually much of a one for stories of victims, lawyers, drug companies, and the FDA, but I couldn't put the book down. It reads like a thriller, and the information it contains is especially vital to anyone who has ever taken Fen-Phen. Even if you would never consider taking a diet drug, you need to learn how ineffectual the FDA has become in the face of the super-powerful drug companies. The drug companies involved knew about the serious health risks associated with these drugs and made every effort not to inform doctors and drug users about the potential dangers. Worse yet, they knew that the drug didn't work. And although they were recommending it for long-term use, they had tested it only for short-term use. This book will make you angry, and given that nearly five times as many people have died from the Fen-Phen debacle as from faulty Firestone tires, we should be angry--angry enough to get Congress to put some teeth back in the FDA so that this sort of tragedy never happens again.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Important but disappointing, July 9 2001
By 
W. Gardner (Columbus, OH) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dispensing with the Truth: The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle over Fen-Phen (Hardcover)
Mundy brings to light many important and disturbing facts about the scientific and regulatory proceses involved in drug approval, and how they can be influenced by the pharmaceutical companies. She has also written an exciting courtroom drama.
I was disappointed, however, that she never gave us a systematic account of the evidence about whether the diet drugs caused pulmonary hypertension or valvular disease -- her story would have been more compelling if she had. Nor did I feel that her stories about the plaintiff and defense lawyers were balanced. I shared her dismay at the tactics of the defense, but she did not seem concerned when the plaintiff attorneys abused procedure or stretched the truth.
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