The Antidote

Barry Werth

Why I looked at this book

On my website I think about whether the current dominance of huge drug companies is the way forward for developing new drugs. This book promises to tell the story of a start-up which had to tackle the big organizations, and the struggles which ensued. But maybe the upstarts are aiming to become like the existing companies.

First impressions

The book look interesting, but having seen that this is a sequel to Billion dollar molecule I begin to wonder whether there'll be enough to make this interesting for the general reader. Those interested in the business side of things might be interested in the struggles and successes of a business, but will the book give a wider view of where pharmecutical development is going. We'll have to see.

Main review

I was tempted to give up on this book, because I felt that it was indeed mostly concerned with the business side of things, and that much of what was written could apply to any business, not just pharmaceutical. One read about crises, financial decision, share issues etc., and while it all related to the development of new drugs, that didn't seem to be central to the book. I decide to continue, though, and I felt that it was worth reading after all, because of the insight it gives into the working of a major pharmaceutical business - that may be similar to other businesses, but its still worth knowing about. One point in particular was the idea that everyone is (or should be) replaceable. Josh Boger set up the company, and it might seem natural that he continued running it, but when it was felt that he was not the best person to run a large business he stepped aside to make way for someone else. With some others the transition was less smooth. And of course scientists are a vital part of the company, but they are not central to the book - one gets the idea that rather than individual scientists making 'heroic' discoveries, they are seen as employees, just as replaceable as anyone else.

The book also gives an idea of why drugs cost so much. Vertex has been criticized for their high prices for their products - another greedy drug company? However, I got the impression that if they were mostly interested in profits then they would have taken a different path. Their motive seemed to be to develop groundbreaking drugs, and accept that it was going to cost a lot of money, rather than looking for drugs which might cost less to develop and so be more profitable in the end.

In summary, the book is certainly worth reading if you are interested in the business side of things. If you are more interested in pharmaceuticals and their development then it is probably still worth reading, although it really needs to be read together with Billion dollar molecule( which I haven't read yet). To appeal to a wider audience of those with a general interest in the subject. I felt that it would be better if both books were condensed into a single work of around 300 pages.
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