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Mary Linnen, 29, was determined to lose 25 pounds before her wedding. In May 1996, her doctor prescribed a combination of drugs known as Fen-Phen. When Linnen complained of dizziness and shortness of breath 23 days after starting the medications, her doctor told her to stop the drugs--but didn't examine her or order tests. Linnen got better for a time, then the shortness of breath and exhaustion returned worse than ever. Her legs and stomach swelled. She collapsed at work. Six months after taking Fen-Phen, Linnen was admitted to the emergency room with primary pulmonary hypertension: the capillaries that sent oxygen to her lungs had thickened and were closing, suffocating her. Her survival expectation after heart surgery was less than four years. Hooked up to a tube in her chest to prevent heart failure, she died three months later.
Dispensing with the Truth: The Battle over Fen-Phen tells the story of the legal battle against the pharmaceutical companies after Fen-Phen's users started dying--some, like Linnen, of primary pulmonary hypertension; others of heart valve damage. Investigative reporter Alicia Mundy weaves a dramatic tale from the development of the drugs to FDA approval to the final litigation. How much did the pharmaceutical companies know about the risks long before most of the deaths? Plenty, according to the evidence Mundy reveals. Although at times the book seems overfilled with details that slow down the drama, if you want the complete, behind-the-scenes story of one of the most famous "profits over protection" cases, this book tells all. --Joan Price --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
H"You are going to hear about a diet pill combination that was a craze... one of the most remarkably profitable pharmaceutical undertakings in the history of the United States," said Alex MacDonald, as quoted here by Mundy, in his opening statement during the Mary Linnen case. Beginning with the death of Linnen, a young woman who took Fen-Phen for less than a month to lose a few pounds before her wedding and died of primary pulmonary hypertension less than a year later, Mundy's book reads like a medical thriller. But the story of the lives affected by the flawed obesity drug is all too true: approximately 45,000 women "were believed to have developed one of two different diseases linked to their lungs or their heart from taking the drugs"; 300,000 women were prepared to sue the manufacturer to pay for tests to determine if they were ill. Mundy, an investigative journalist and contributor to both Mediaweek and Washingtonian magazine, looks at all the players, including the victims, the resolute legal team, corporate giant Wyeth-Ayerst (the drug's maker), the elite medical community that defended it and the negligent FDA. It took the discovery of heart valve damage to force the drug off the market. The FDA knew of problems with the drug but for a variety of reasons, from bureaucratic sluggishness to cozy relationships with the pharmaceutical companies, remained silent. Mundy has turned an incredibly complex chain of events into a readable and moving narrative, reminisicent of A Civil Action, that engages the reader as it details these legal and personal battles. (May)Forecast: With so many Americans both overweight and diet-obsessed, St. Martin's is betting on a popular response to this book and is reporting a first printing of 75,000 copies. Elle and Self are giving extensive coverage to Mundy in their May issues, and a lengthy interview on NPR has been arranged. The author will be making appearances in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The subject of this fascinating book is the first wrongful death suit brought against a diet drug, Fen-Phen, an event that Mundy sets in the context of drug companies' greed, publicity spinning, and power over the Food and Drug Administration. Mundy comprehensively and often grippingly details the plaintiffs' attorneys' search for facts, which ultimately accumulated millions of documents; their many depositions; their work on determining trial procedures; their practicing before mock courts that included "jurors" selected to give feedback; and then the trial itself. Simultaneously with those efforts, the two companies involved in the suit, Wyeth-Ayerst and its owner, American Home Products, spent more on PR countering reports of their products' ill effects than they originally had on testing their safety. The case's settlement for more than $10 million seems, however, more a capitulation than a victory, for Mary Linnen's parents and sister, as well as the jurors, had wanted a verdict to affirm unequivocally the drug companies' criminality and lack of interest in patients' welfare. William Beatty
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Sam Donaldson, Chief White House Correspondent for ABC
News, and co-anchor of This Week with Sam Donaldson and
"A great investigative reporter tells the story of how corporate greed and government incompetence combined to let a killer loose -- and what happened when the truth closed in. Read it and weep." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Barry Reed, author of The Verdict
"This true-to-life courtroom drama reads like an edge-of-the-seat novel. It tops A Civil Action." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"An absorbing look at how the fen/phen diet craze destroyed lives and our illusions about drug safety... giving the tale a human face... a read that will have you gritting your teeth." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"In the tradition of A Civil Action and In Cold Blood, this important and timely book reads like a riveting murder mystery . . . Alicia Mundy's book shines an overdue and informing spotlight on the immense, and not always well-used, power of national pharmaceutical corporations . . . over FDA regulators, over elected officials, and over the consuming public. Readers will leave Dispensing with the Truth's final pages armed with new insights—and heightened concerns—regarding the safety of the pharmaceuticals they consume. This is a significant and utterly engaging work of legal journalism at its best. It is also reminds us that lawyers can sometimes be heroes. And it makes me personally proud that some of the heroes in these pages are former students of mine."—Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
"[A] sad, infuriating and important tale . . . [Mundy's] mastery of the massive scandal's legal, political and regulatory issues is impressive, her documentation comprehensive. [S]he has produced an exemplary piece of reportage on an appalling and utterly needless catastrophe."—The Washington Post
"A great investigative reporter tells the story of how corporate greed and government incompetence combined to let a killer loose—and what happened when the truth closed in."—Sam Donaldson, Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News and co-anchor of This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts
"Absorbing . . . a read that will have you gritting your teeth."—Time
"The subject of this fascinating book is the first wrongful death suit brought against a diet drug, Fen-Phen, an event that Mundy sets in the context of drug companies' greed, publicity spinning, and power over the Food and Drug Administration. Mundy comprehensively and often grippingly details the plaintiffs' attorneys' search for facts, which ultimately accumulated millions of documents; their many depositions; their work on determining trial procedures; their practicing before mock courts that included 'jurors' selected to give feedback; and then the trial itself. "—William Beatty, Booklist
"[Mundy] admirably recounts the fen-phen fiasco of the late 1990s . . . [She] has crafted a compelling morality tale out of this huge medical and regulatory disaster."—Elle
"Dispensing with the Truth has Hollywood movie written all over it . . . Think Erin Brockovich or A Civil Action—a courtroom drama pitting presumably powerless human beings against greedy corporations."—Salon.com
"[A] medical thriller that profiles unsuspecting victims while indicting the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical giant Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories."—New York Daily News
"As Capitol Hill thrashes out the limits of a patient's right to sue health care providers, all involved should make Mundy's [book] a frequently consulted reference . . . [The book] chronicles, with passion and precision, the sequence of events that led to the Fen-Phen weight-loss drug disaster that left thousands of women dead or crippled by heart disease."—The National Journal
"Mundy's scorched-earth reporting and high-energy writing build a story that leave A Civil Action in the dust."—Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe
"Mundy's book reads like a medical thriller . . . A readable and moving narrative."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Investigative reporting at its best . . . will keep readers on the edge of their seats."—Arizona Daily Star
"This true-to-life courtroom drama reads like an edge-of-the-seat novel. It tops A Civil Action."—Barry Reed, bestselling author of The Verdict and The Deception
"Dispensing with the Truth has a huge, gratifying asset: it is so readable a story, told with such zest and saucy verve, that once you start reading, you'll be hard-pressed to stop. Remember, I warned you!"—Jack Valenti, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association
About the Author
Alicia Mundy is the senior editor and Washington bureau chief for Cableworld magazine. Her stories have appeared in U.S. News & World Report, GQ, Philadelphia magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Mediaweek, and The Washingtonian. Mundy is the winner of several journalism awards for commentary and investigative reporting. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
In 1996, a terrible epidemic began. Thousands of young women were stricken and many of them died. Some died quickly, within a few months; others lasted a couple of years. Many of those who didn't die suffered damage to their hearts and lungs, much of it permanent. Doctors suspected what the killer was. So did the Food and Drug Administration. The culprit was one-half of the most popular diet drug combination on the market, Fen-Phen. It was produced and sold by a powerful pharmaceutical company, Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products.
Dispensing with the Truth is the gripping story of what the drug company really knew about its drugs, the ways it kept this information from the public, doctors, and the FDA and the massive legal battles that ensued as victims and their attorneys searched for the truth behind the debacle.
It tells the story of a healthy young woman, Mary Linnen, who took the drugs for only 23 days to lose weight before her wedding-and then died in the arms of her fiance a few months later. Hers was the first wrongful death suit filed and would become the most important single suit the company would face.
Award-winning investigative reporter Alicia Mundy provides a shocking and thoroughly riveting narrative account of the whole debacle. It is a stark look at the consequences of greed-and a cautionary tale for the future.