Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Poison Pills

Poison Pills

The Untold Story of the Vioxx Drug Scandal

Tom Nesi

Thomas Dunne Books




To the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain and arthritis, Vioxx seemed like a miracle. One of the most widely promoted and prescribed pain medications in the world -- used by more than twenty million people -- it was endorsed by the medical establishment and celebrities such as Olympic champion figure skater Dorothy Hamill. With annual sales of $2.5 billion, Vioxx became a pharmaceutical bonanza before being abruptly taken off the market in September 2004, after it was revealed that it led to an increased risk of heart-related disease and death.

Drawing on internal documents, video footage, court testimony, and exclusive interviews, as well as three decades of experience inside the medical industry, Tom Nesi tells the dramatic story of what the drug's manufacturer, Merck, knew and when. It is a compelling narrative of business and medical science run amok, with a cast of characters ranging from those at the highest levels of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry to research scientists, marketers, and drug company sales reps. Here also are accounts from physicians, lawyers, financial analysts, and patients and their families whose lives have been forever altered by Vioxx.

Set against a fascinating history of the origins of the modern pharmaceutical industry, POISON PILLS is a shocking tale that involves the breakdown of the United States medical system, the failures of the Food and Drug Administration, and enormous profits made by a large pharmaceutical corporation at the potential cost of thousands of lives.


Prelude: The Widow

Carol Ernst remembers with vivid clarity the death of her husband, Bob, on May 6, 2001. After a sentimental dinner at the Olive Garden restaurant in Keene, Texas, the same spot where the two had gone on their first...


Praise for Poison Pills

“If medications had personalities, Vioxx would be that macho guy in a Hummer who just took your parking space (and the one next to it), who then gets out, smiling and talking on his cellphone. Touted as a 'super aspirin,' Vioxx was, for a time, the No. 1 pain medication in the world, backed by aggressive marketing to physicians and the public. How it got to be 'the single greatest drug safety catastrophe in the history of the world,' in the words of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official, is a fascinating story that's told for the first time . . . in Nesi's carefully researched chronicle of the Vioxx saga.” —Calgary Herald

“For anyone with even a passing interest in the billions of pills we take every day, the pills we are coaxed, persuaded, urged and exhorted to consume with ever-increasing fervor by Big Pharma and its medical minions, and the roles that the Food and Drug Administration and our government play in this deadly game of pharmaceutical roulette, this book is a must-read.” —Novus Medical Detox Centers

“Tom Nesi opens up the door to one of the most egregious chapters in the long and rarely heard history of the drug industry, which has been attempting to combat pain for centuries. In Poison Pills, Nesi sorts out who all the players were and how the public health was threatened. He then describes in depth how the FDA and other regulators were first overwhelmed and then fooled by the power of the drug lobby. Every citizen concerned with not only their own health, but the public's well-being should read his book.” —Richard J. Garfunkel, host of “The Advocates” – WVOX 1460 AM Radio, Westchester County, NY

“This is a great book . . . it reads like a mystery thriller.” —Dr. Ronald Hoffman, host of the nationally-syndicated radio program “Health Talk with Dr. Ronald Hoffman”

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Tom Nesi

Tom Nesi has been a pharmaceutical executive and medical industry insider for thirty years. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Tom Nesi

From the Publisher

Thomas Dunne Books

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