Author: Jeremy A. Greene
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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.