Protecting America’s Health

Jun 21, 2017 by

Protecting America's Health - Hilts


Title: Protecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business, and 100 Years of Regulation
Authors: Philip J. Hilts
Year: 2003

Quick Summary:
The history and background of the FDA – an organization that is both respected and hated – is finally told from an objective, unbiased perspective.  A quote from a Smithsonian historian, Michael R. Harris, summarizes most of this book for me: “The story of drug regulation [in the US] is built on tombstones.”  There is a reason that the FDA exists, and this is that story.

While most of my reading is done voluntarily, this is one of those books that I had to read in school.  And I was not even remotely excited about it.  It sounded dull, boring, and honestly irrelevant to me as a pharmacy student.  But then I started reading it…and I couldn’t put it down.

This book isn’t just about the history of a government agency.  This is the story of the generations of Americans whose lives were negatively impacted by dangerous and fatal therapies as the concept for the FDA slowly came to be.  It clearly lays out the tragedies that occurred before the FDA was even formed, followed by additional tragedies that granted it the oversight it needed to protect America in so many ways.

The best thing about Hilts’ book is how objective it is.  He shows the story from both sides and is willing to defend an organization that is so often trashed in the media.

The biggest drawback from this book, at this point, is its age.  It is highly accurate and very thorough, but it was printed in 2003.  Much has happened (and continues to happen) in the world of regulation since that time, but it is not discussed in this book.  He also does not spend much time talking about the dietary supplement industry, a growing and modern concern that is beginning to rival some of the great tragedies discussed in his book.  But have no fear!  There are other books for that, which I will review soon (Do You Believe in Magic? and Trick or Treatment).

Final Word:
If you have ever been curious about the FDA and how it relates to your health and your treatment options, this book will provide you with a wealth of information on the topic.  For anyone with a chronic condition, this is important information to know and understand, and it is a continually popular topic of discussion in professional and social media.

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