Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine

October 7, 2014 Humor, non-fiction, Review, Science 12

Generic: The Unbranding of Modern MedicineTitle: Generic
Author: Jeremy A. Greene
Source: Edelweiss
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Summary: Generic was written in a fairly dry way, but the material was interesting enough to make it an enjoyable read.

Generic drugs are a generally accepted part of medicine, but this wasn’t always the case. Throughout the history of generics, both scientists and politicians have struggled to decide what makes two drugs substitutable, while both generic and name-brand drug companies have tried to influence their decisions. This book describes the rise of the generic and all of the fascinating political, social, and scientific debates that led to their general acceptance.

This book is from John Hopkins University Press so I expected it to be on the academic side, but I was still disappointed by the somewhat theoretical digressions about the nature of “sameness”. I also would have liked to see more focus on the specific people involved in the history of the generic, because I find that the people stories are often the most interesting part of microhistories. However, almost in spite of itself, this was a very interesting book. The history of generics is fascinating and the fact that generics only have to show “sameness”, rather than undergoing clinical trials is something I think more people should be aware of. The forces that shaped the rise of the generic in America were sometimes surprising and always intriguing. They also offered an interesting perspective on American culture in the 19th century.

Despite the academic asides, this book is mostly accessible to a general audience. The author occasionally introduces chemistry terms without defining them, but most could probably be skipped without losing the author’s point and they don’t occur enough to make the amount of googling which might be required annoying. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, because it can be dry and is often wordy, but if you’re interested in the subject as I was, I think it could still be a worthwhile and enjoyable read.

12 Responses to “Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine”

    • DoingDewey

      I’ll have to look up On Immunity. I’m currently TAing The Biology Of Infectious Disease, so it’s a topic I’d love to learn more about. I knew that picking something up from a university press, I was risking ending up with something very academic, but I decided to give it a chance because I’d like to read more really science-y books instead of just pop science. I definitely still want something interesting though, so I’ll have to keep working to find a good balance.
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    • DoingDewey

      I definitely felt like I learned some useful information from this one. I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on whether or not generics are safe, but it was a question I’m happy to be aware of.

    • DoingDewey

      I thought that was kind of scary! It seems as though it does usually work out, but changes other than the active ingredient are allowed and can affect things like rate of absorption of the active ingredient. Another problem is when new drugs are created based on old drugs and they only have to be shown to work, not to be better than the new drug, making it hard for physicians to know what to prescribe. Lots of tricky questions with no easy answers!

  1. Aloi (guiltlessreading)

    That’s too bad. It takes a special kind of writer to turn something academic into something readable. This sounds worthwhile though — if I can use generics, I do!

    • DoingDewey

      It really does take a great author to make a topic like this accessible! I also suspect that some authors are intentionally going for an academic tone in order to be take seriously by their colleagues. Within my own field, I’ve debated about whether or not our use of jargon is a good thing. It can make things difficult for newbies and sometimes becomes overly complicated (especially when one thing ends up with multiple names), but it also makes it possible be very precise without being overly wordy.

  2. Leila @ LeilaReads

    I love me a good book about a controversial issue, but the level of dryness you describe would keep me from reading this one. I do have to say that I love how you read so much nonfiction. Don’t see that on many book blogs (at least the ones I follow).
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    • DoingDewey

      Unfortunately, I have to say that I think skipping this one is probably the right choice. It was a very interesting topic, but not a very interesting book.

      I haven’t found many other bloggers who read a lot of nonfiction either, but I’m always on the look out for more. I love reading nonfiction and getting to find out more about so many quirky topics 🙂