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Dispensing With The Truth Essay, Research Paper

The author of Dispensing With the Truth, Alicia Mundy, is the Washington bureau chief for Mediaweek and a contributing editor at Washingtonian magazine. She has written for U.S. News & World Report, GQ, Philadelphia Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. She is best known for her investigative report which originally broke the 1992 scandal revealing that top United Way executives were stealing money from the organization’s accounts (Brown, 2001). Alicia Mundy is the winner of several journalism awards for commentary and investigative reporting. She currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Dispensing With the Truth began as an article assigned by Glamour magazine, but was ultimately published in U.S. News and World Report (Brown, 2001).

Dispensing With the Truth is nearly 400 pages citing legal documents, studies, corporate e-mails, depositions and interviews. Author Alicia Mundy painstakingly proves that the pharmaceutical company Wyeth-Ayerst knew that its fen-phen diet pills, including the drugs Pondimin and Redux were dangerous. Even with this knowledge, they kept them on the market anyway. This book tells what the drug companies really knew about its drugs and the ways it kept this information from the public, doctors, and the FDA. Dispensing With the Truth goes on to describe and the massive legal battles that occurred as the victims and their attorneys searched for the truth. Wyeth-Ayerst?s parent company, American Home Products, was the target of one of the largest and most successful tort lawsuits in American history. Alicia Mundy writes about corporate greed and puts a harsh spotlight on the FDA officials who were asleep at the switch. Presently nearly a third of the millions of fen-phen users will ultimately suffer some degree of heart and lung damage from these drugs (Goodman, 2000). Throughout the book Alicia Mundy sheds light on the inner workings of the pharmaceutical companies and how the fen-phen tragedy unfolded.

The cast of characters is long and involved starting with the victims, their families, and the lawyers of the victims who put the drug companies and their practices on trial. The drug companies: American Home Products, parent company of Wyeth-Ayerst, Fisons, and Interneuron, the company?s officials, and the lawyers for the drug companies who repeatedly tried to distort the truth. The FDA officials who were caught in the middle of trying to appease the drug companies and protect the consumer and finally the judges and jurors in the trials all have a voice in this book.

It all began with Mary Linnen and her tragic, yet preventable death. In 1996, Mary Linnen was an average-sized girl. She was always healthy, but she wanted to lose a few pounds before her wedding day. What she didn?t know was that a diet craze ? a popular diet drug called fen-phen ? wouldn?t lead her to a slimmer waist, instead it would lead her to die in the arms of her fianc?, months before her wedding day (Mundy, 2000).

Consumers beware! Dispensing With the Truth is an inside look at the drug companies? main motivation?money. Fen Phen was approved in 1996 despite noted concerns about safety. American Home Products made the ?fen? in fen-phen, a drug called fenfluramine. It sold the drug under the brand name Pondimin along with a chemical cousin called Redux (Doctor?s Guide, 1998). The drug companies worked against the FDA, the one agency in place to regulate the safety of their products. These pills were targeted to specific a consumer. The drug companies counted on ?pink collar? women, who were not truly obese, or old, just wanting to lose 20 or so odd pounds. The companies carefully orchestrated a diet drug fad that made them hundreds of millions of dollars. When reports started flooding in about serious side effects of the drugs these companies consistently downplayed the warnings. Instead the companies chose to fight the recommendations of the FDA to include ?black box? warnings, which would put clear labeling alerting consumers and doctors to possible risks. They also hired experts and conducted studies to try to prove their product safe. Ultimately American Home Products pulled Pondimin and Redux off the market in 1997 after a Mayo Clinic study linked fenfluramine to potentially fatal heart valve damage and pulmonary hypertension (Doctor?s Guide, 1998). American Home Products began a nearly $100 million public relations spin in order to ward off paying damages and risking punishment by the government. During the summer of 2000, American Home Products agreed to settle the major class action lawsuit pending against the company for approximately $12 billion. Individuals harmed by fen-phen will receive between $5,000 and $1.5 million each, depending on the severity of their fen-phen related injuries. The company expects thousands of claimants to come forward over the next several months (Injuryboard, 2001).

The information in this book was well documented. Mundy relied on documents from the FDA, Wyeth-Ayerst, American Home Family, Servier and Interneuron. Other information was gained at the depositions of the drug company officials and during trial testimony. Close contact with the victims, their families, and the lawyers who waged the war against the Goliath drug companies added a human element to the book. She also drew from news stories in The Wall Street Journal and reports in Newsday. The American Journal of Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Obesity Research were also listed as sources (Mundy, 2001). Concern was raised after fen-phen users started to become ill. That fact that this tragedy has unfolded over the last five years is proof to the accuracy and relevance contained in this book.

Personally this book has opened my eyes to the deception that is out there. I?ve learned that I need to be skeptical of products released onto the market. Claims that sound too good to be true probably are, and I should be wary of risking my health. Personal research into claims given by a product could be done easily over the Internet or by asking for a second or third opinion from a physician.

BibliographyBrown, Janelle. May 16, 2001. The Poison Pill.

Solon.com. Oct. 12, 2001.

http://www.elslaw.com/redux_articles_5-16-01.htmDoctor?s Guide. Dec. 1, 1998. Phen-Fen May Pose Threat For Heart Valve Disease.

Doctor’s Guide Publishing. Oct. 22, 2001.

http://www.pslgroup.comInjuryboard. 2001. Fen-Phen.

Injuryboard.com. Oct. 22, 2001.

http://www.injuryboard.comGoodman, W. June 17, 2000. Obesity Inc.

Press Journal. Oct. 12, 2001.

http://www.tcpalm.com/vero/opinions/17v214.shtmlMundy, Alicia. 2000. Dispensing With the Truth: the Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle Over fen-phen. St. Martin Press.


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