Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban 

Rate: 5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (Spoilers Abound):

I’ve often found when a book permeates into your subconscious and you start having dreams inspired by your read that it is a hallmark of a fantastic book! That being said, I don’t know if a nonfiction has ever had this effect on me before but I’ve been dreaming about being pressured into forging data or searching for proof of known forged data for the past three nights. Especially as a scientist, these restless nights dreaming of such nightmarish topics, have left me less than rested. I’d been introduced to Bottles of Lies from an NPR book review, which is quickly becoming a hotspot for me to find excellent nonfiction book recommendations, as I’d recently picked up Salt from that same source. Bottles of Lies is now my go to nonfiction book recommendation for the foreseeable future, finally unseating Educated, which has reigned with that title almost a year. On that note, if you haven’t read Eduacted what are you waiting for? Back to the title at hand, I wanted to cry at the end of this book out of anger, frustration, and hopelessness at the faulty drugs that are not only permeating our markets but even more prevalent in developing countries where they do not have the regulating bodies to keep the companies (somewhat) honest. I’m still struggling with a sense of betrayal by the FDA, which proved to be more of a political entity than the moral compass that I’d thought had the American people’s interest at heart, and not their bottom dollar. After reading Bottle of Lies and having my innocence at the blind trust I’d placed in the medicines I’d been prescribed throughout my life unexpectedly shaken to its foundations I will never view generics through the same naive light again. This subject has also forced me to reassess previous experiences with generics. When I was in early college, I was switched unexpectedly by a pharmacist from the brand name birth control I’d taken for years to a generic. Both the pharmacist and my doctor promised that the new medicine was identical to the former one and made me feel as though I was making up symptoms when I had side effects that I had previously not been experiencing under the brand name. Eban highlights that the two medicines are not actually the same, only that they reach approximately the same concentration in your body, however the profile and how long they stay at that therapeutic concentration are not monitored, which can yield vastly different efficacy in the body. However, the comparison data is also in doubt due to the many, many, many examples Eban documented where all of the data had been fabricated to various extents, resulting in none, to minimal, experiments actually taking place.  This lack of scientific ethics on these generic drug companies and overall lack of concern for the death or illness of the patients they are supplying is absolutely mind blowing and disheartening.  There is political pressure on big pharma by politicians to low their prices with the generics being held up as an example how drugs can be made cheaply, however politicians are turning a blind eye to the fraudulent practices and dangerous medicines that are available to the public. Eban does not highlight the shortcomings of big pharma as that could likely be a book of its own, so my discussion here does not touch on that issue either. The FDA, as an institution, is suppose to be the watch dog for such activity, but it is criminal how this government agency allowed certain companies to continue operating despite having evidence of fraudulent data and drugs. For me, it was telling that the Cleveland Clinic’s Pharmacy has a black list of generic drug makers that it refuses to buy medicines from due to issues experienced by patients. The question now is, how to I get my hands on this list? A few weeks ago my Dad had a heart attack. Thankfully he is ok, however he is now taking a whole slew of new medicines. As you can imagine, the researcher side of me will be tracking down his medication suppliers to look into their reputations and potentially lobby for him to get on something more reliable if that company has a dubious past. Not only that, I plan on questioning my personal doctor during my next check up on her experiences with generics. My resolve solidified further upon reading about many FDA officials, while testifying in front of Congress, saying that they would not personally take generics. I do wish that Eban had addressed examples of ‘good’ generic companies as her book leaves you with that feeling that all generic companies are bad. This one sided biased is concerning, however upon further searching, I’m not seeing anyone criticizing her take on this industry thus far. Overall, Bottle of Lies shattered the naive bubble I’d been existing in regarding the quality of medicines. I always defer to thinking people are generally good, however hearing about the evil, mass corruption surrounding medicines that people throughout the world rely upon has taken a chunk of my innocence. Please read this book!



  1. This sounds fascinating and terrifying at the same time, and I’m going to have to look this one up! I’m in the UK but I’ve also heard the same from doctors about generics – I was prescribed one but couldn’t take it due to a peanut allergy, after reading the leaflet inside, and when I went back to my doctor he told me that he’d never come across that and often doctors rely on hearing about such things from patients who go back in like me. Crazy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • So scary! That actually happened to a coworker of mine when she was a young girl too! Her family couldn’t figure out why her inhaler was making her sicker. It was due to peanuts. I’m so thankful you read the leaflet!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve seen coverage of this book (not sure I’m brave enough to read something so depressing), and it’s already changed my buying habits. And then throw in that no one was testing vitamins and supplements. Just glad to see CVS is now going to do what the govt should have been doing all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh. Agreed. I knew going in it would be depressing but I didn’t think it would be on this level. I agree! Add essential oils to the list of items not regulated by the FDA that should be, especially with how individuals are using them for all sorts of ailments but no one can actually be sure what is in them. Rather scary.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting! The debate about health, medication and drugs is a bit different over here, eg practitioners will go for the cheaper medicines, rather than the best. So-called generic drugs are not necessarily “bad” medication. They can be wrong, as Bibliocesca argues above. However, one of the problems is that when you are really ill, you are not in the best position to argue or shop around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t tell you how excited I am for you to read both of these books! If you like them I have a few more nonfiction recommendations for you. 🙂 I’m heavy in high fantasy reads, but enjoy adding in a nonfiction book or two in. Especially if they’re highly rated.


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