Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom
From an award-winning Fortune reporter, an explosive narrative investigation of the generic drug boom that reveals the life-threatening dangers posed by globalization–The Jungle for pharmaceuticals.
The widespread use of generic drugs has been hailed as one of the most important public health developments of the twentieth century. Today, almost 90 percent of our pharmaceutical market is comprised of generics, the majority of which are manufactured overseas.
We have been reassured by our pharmacists, our doctors, and our regulators that the generic and brand-name drugs are identical, generics just cheaper. But is this really true?
Katherine Eban’s Bottle of Lies exposes the widespread deceit behind generic drug manufacturing–creating terrifying risks for global health. Drawing on exclusive accounts from whistleblowers, inspectors, and regulators, as well as thousands of pages of confidential internal FDA documents, Eban reveals an industry where fraud is rampant, companies falsify data, and executives circumvent almost every principle of safe manufacturing to minimize cost and maximize profit. Meanwhile, patients unwittingly consume adulterated medicine with unpredictable and even life-threatening effects.
The story of generic drugs is truly global: it connects middle America to sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, and Brazil, and encompasses every market banking on the promise of a low-cost cure. Given that tens of millions of patients take drugs of dubious quality approved with fake data, the generics industry is the ultimate litmus test of globalization: what is the risk of moving drug manufacturing offshore, and is it worth the savings?
An investigation with international sweep, exotic settings, molecular mayhem, and big money at its core, Bottle of Lies reveals how the world’s greatest public-health innovation has become one of its most astonishing swindles
“This book will save lives…What Rachel Carson did for our understanding of the perils facing the environment Katherine Eban has now done for our understanding of the threats to our health from the drugs we take every day. Bottle of Lies is Katherine Eban’s masterwork of global investigative reporting.” (James Risen, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Pay Any Price and State of War)
“A shocking exposé of corporate greed, arrogance, and eagerness to exploit the weak for profit….Bottle of Lies is an important work of investigative journalism. Anyone who takes prescription drugs should read it.” (Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control and Fast Food Nation)
“Bottle of Lies is a tour de force of dogged reporting. In her bracing, panoramic account, Katherine Eban expertly unspools a colossal fraud with momentous implications for public health…This book is so alarming in places that it reads like a dystopian medical thriller. But it’s true.” (Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing and The Snakehead)
About the Author
KATHERINE EBAN, an investigative journalist, is a Fortune magazine contributor and Andrew Carnegie fellow. She has also written for Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Self, The Nation, the New York Observer and other publications. She is the author of Dangerous Doses: A True Story of Cops, Counterfeiters, and the Contamination of America’s Drug Supply, and lectures frequently on the topic of pharmaceutical integrity. Educated at Brown University and Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.
Originally published: 14 May 2019