In recent years, there have been several books written on the topic of big pharma. Ron Stark takes a step back from the debate engendered by the likes of Ben Goldacre, John LaMattina and Marcia Angell, and takes a more personal look at the pharmaceutical industry and the people in it.
Stark trained as a doctor in Aberdeen, Scotland, and spent a large proportion of his career as a drug development troubleshooter for a pharmaceutical company. This collection of stories and anecdotes spanning his career provide a fascinating insight into the changing milieu of the pharmaceutical industry. We see, from Stark’s perspective, a pharmaceutical company made up of hard-working professionals who, as you would expect, are variously talented and flawed. We are reminded of the sheer amount of work that goes into drug development. Using real-life examples, Stark describes how some of the drug development problems encountered by one pharmaceutical company were solved.
Stark also recounts his experiences as an academic researcher (pharmacists may be interested in his contributions to the use of domiciliary oxygen for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and as a doctor (a particularly interesting chapter describes the typhoid outbreak in Aberdeen in 1964).
Written in a warm, personable, chatty tone, the book is easy to read. The characters Stark has encountered during his career are brought to life by his writing. For those considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry, this insider’s view is a valuable read. However, it will also be of interest to anyone who would like to understand more about drug research and the workings of the pharmaceutical industry, or those interested in the history of medicine.
‘From farms to pharma’ is a worthy addition to the growing literature on the topic of big pharma, highlighting the important role played by the people who help bring new drugs to the patients who need them.
‘From farms to pharma: a troubleshooter looks back’, by Ron Stark. Pp xii+274 £9.99. Leicester: Troubador Publishing; 2015. ISBN 978 1 78462 288 6