Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on the Pharmaceuticals Industry based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.
This list of books is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.
We also invite you to check out our list of the best podcasts on the Pharmaceuticals Industry.
The authoritative account of the race to produce the vaccines that are saving us all, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Man Who Solved the Market
Few were ready when a mysterious respiratory illness emerged in Wuhan, China in January 2020. Politicians, government officials, business leaders, and public-health professionals were unprepared for the most devastating pandemic in a century. Many of the world’s biggest drug and vaccine makers were slow to react or couldn’t muster an effective response.
It was up to a small group of unlikely and untested scientists and executives to save civilization. A French businessman dismissed by many as a fabulist. A Turkish immigrant with little virus experience. A quirky Midwesterner obsessed with insect cells. A Boston scientist employing questionable techniques. A British scientist despised by his peers. Far from the limelight, each had spent years developing innovative vaccine approaches. Their work was met with skepticism and scorn. By 2020, these individuals had little proof of progress. Yet they and their colleagues wanted to be the ones to stop the virus holding the world hostage. They scrambled to turn their life’s work into life-saving vaccines in a matter of months, each gunning to make the big breakthrough—and to beat each other for the glory that a vaccine guaranteed.
A #1 New York Times bestselling author and award-winning Wall Street Journal investigative journalist lauded for his “bravura storytelling” (Gary Shteyngart) and “first-rate” reporting (The New York Times), Zuckerman takes us inside the top-secret laboratories, corporate clashes, and high-stakes government negotiations that led to effective shots. Deeply reported and endlessly gripping, this is a dazzling, blow-by-blow chronicle of the most consequential scientific breakthrough of our time. It’s a story of courage, genius, and heroism. It’s also a tale of heated rivalries, unbridled ambitions, crippling insecurities, and unexpected drama. A Shot to Save the World is the story of how science saved the world.
“An inspiring and informative page-turner.” –Walter Isaacson
Longlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year AwardRead moreRead less
Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz
The definitive investigation and exposé of how some of the nation’s largest corporations created and fueled the opioid crisis—from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters who first uncovered the dimensions of the deluge of pain pills that ravaged the country and the complicity of a near-omnipotent drug cartel.
AMERICAN CARTEL is an unflinching and deeply documented dive into the culpability of the drug companies behind the staggering death toll of the opioid epidemic. It follows a small band of DEA agents led by Joseph Rannazzisi, a tough-talking New Yorker who had spent a storied thirty years bringing down bad guys; along with a band of lawyers, including West Virginia native Paul Farrell Jr., who fought to hold the drug industry to account in the face of the worst man-made drug epidemic in American history. It is the story of underdogs prevailing over corporate greed and political cowardice, persevering in the face of predicted failure, and how they found some semblance of justice for the families of the dead during the most complex civil litigation ever seen.
The investigators and lawyers discovered hundreds of thousands of confidential corporate emails and memos during courtroom combat with legions of white-shoe law firms defending the opioid industry. One breathtaking disclosure after another—from emails that mocked addicts to invoices chronicling the rise of pill mills—showed the indifference of big business to the epidemic’s toll. The narrative approach echoes such work as A Civil Action and The Insider, moving dramatically between corporate boardrooms, courthouses, lobbying firms, DEA field offices, and Capitol Hill while capturing the human toll of the epidemic on America’s streets.
AMERICAN CARTEL is the story of those who were on the front lines of the fight to stop the human carnage. Along the way, they suffer a string of defeats, some of their careers destroyed by the very same government officials who swore to uphold the law before they begin to prevail over some of the most powerful corporate and political influences in the nation.Read moreRead less
The explosive story of the discovery and development of psychiatric medications, as well as the science and the people behind their invention, told by a riveting writer and psychologist who shares her own experience with the highs and lows of psychiatric drugs.
Although one in five Americans now takes at least one psychotropic drug, the fact remains that nearly seventy years after doctors first began prescribing them, not even their creators understand exactly how or why these drugs work — or don’t work — on what ails our brains.
Lauren Slater’s revelatory account charts psychiatry’s journey from its earliest drugs, Thorazine and lithium, up through Prozac and other major antidepressants of the present. Blue Dreams also chronicles experimental treatments involving Ecstasy, magic mushrooms, the most cutting-edge memory drugs, placebos, and even neural implants. In her thorough analysis of each treatment, Slater asks three fundamental questions: how was the drug born, how does it work (or fail to work), and what does it reveal about the ailments it is meant to treat?
Fearlessly weaving her own intimate experiences into comprehensive and wide-ranging research, Slater narrates a personal history of psychiatry itself. In the process, her powerful and groundbreaking exploration casts modern psychiatry’s ubiquitous wonder drugs in a new light, revealing their ability to heal us or hurt us, and proving an indispensable resource not only for those with a psychotropic prescription but for anyone who hopes to understand the limits of what we know about the human brain and the possibilities for future treatments.Read moreRead less
From an award-winning journalist, an explosive narrative investigation of the generic drug boom that reveals fraud and life-threatening dangers on a global scale—The Jungle for pharmaceuticals.
Many have hailed the widespread use of generic drugs as one of the most important public-health developments of the twenty-first century. Today, almost 90 percent of our pharmaceutical market is comprised of generics, the majority of which are manufactured overseas. We have been reassured by our doctors, our pharmacists and our regulators that generic drugs are identical to their brand-name counterparts, just less expensive. But is this really true?
Katherine Eban’s Bottle of Lies exposes the deceit behind generic-drug manufacturing—and the attendant risks for global health. Drawing on exclusive accounts from whistleblowers and regulators, as well as thousands of pages of confidential FDA documents, Eban reveals an industry where fraud is rampant, companies routinely falsify data, and executives circumvent almost every principle of safe manufacturing to minimize cost and maximize profit, confident in their ability to fool inspectors. Meanwhile, patients unwittingly consume medicine with unpredictable and dangerous effects.
The story of generic drugs is truly global. It connects middle America to China, India, sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil, and represents the ultimate litmus test of globalization: what are the risks of moving drug manufacturing offshore, and are they worth the savings?
A decade-long investigation with international sweep, high-stakes brinkmanship and big money at its core, Bottle of Lies reveals how the world’s greatest public-health innovation has become one of its most astonishing swindles.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019
New York Public Library Best Books of 2019
Kirkus Reviews Best Health and Science Books of 2019
Science Friday Best Books of 2019Read moreRead less
Stephanie A. Wisner
Ever wonder how medicines and vaccines enter the marketplace? Why they are so expensive? Most people have heard about Theranos, a story of failure: how do biotechnology start-ups actually succeed?
In Building Backwards to Biotech, author Stephanie A. Wisner demystifies the subjects of biotechnology, start-ups, and finance to answer these questions. Wisner unlocks the secrets of how to build a biotech company successfully by keeping one process always in mind: Building Backwards.
In this book you will understand the concept of Building Backwards and how it can:
Wisner believes in the power of entrepreneurship to drive cutting-edge science to market successfully and its ability to help people suffering with diseases currently considered untreatable. She believes good science combined with innovative business practices has the power to literally save and enrich lives. Building Backwards to Biotech will make it easier for interested individuals to bring this kind of work to a waiting world.Read moreRead less
Patrick Radden Keefe
The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful. The Sackler name has adorned the walls of many storied institutions—Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, but the source of the family fortune was vague—until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis.
Empire of Pain is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. It follows the family’s early success with Valium to the much more potent OxyContin, marketed with a ruthless technique of co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug’s addictiveness. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability.
A masterpiece of narrative reporting, Empire of Pain is a ferociously compelling portrait of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super-elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed that built one of the world’s great fortunes.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of Say Nothing.Read moreRead less
A gripping business narrative and scientific thriller about what it takes to bring a wonder drug to market―and save countless lives.
For Blood and Money tells the little-known story of how an upstart biotechnology company created a one-in-a-million cancer drug, and how the core team―denied their share of the profits―went and did it again. In this epic saga of money and science, veteran financial journalist Nathan Vardi explains how the invention of two of the biggest cancer drugs in history became (for their backers) two of the greatest Wall Street bets of all time.
In the multibillion-dollar business of biotech, where pharmaceutical companies, the government, hedge funds, and venture capitalists have spent billions on funding, experimentation, and treatments, a single molecule can stop cancer in its tracks―and make the people who find that rare molecule astonishingly rich. For Blood and Money follows a small team at a biotech start-up in California, who have found one of these rare molecules. Their compound, known as a BTK inhibitor, seems to work on a vicious type of leukemia. When patients start rising from their hospice beds, the team knows they’re onto something big.
What follows is a story of genius, pathos, and drama, in which vivid characters navigate a world of corporate intrigue and ambiguous morality. Vardi’s narrative immerses readers in the recent explosion of biotech start-ups. He describes the scientists, doctors, and investors who are risking everything to develop new, life-saving treatments, and introduces suffering patients for whom the stakes are life-or-death. A gripping nonfiction read, For Blood and Money illustrates why it’s so hard to bring new drugs to market, explains why they are so expensive, and examines how profit-driven venture capitalists are shaping the future of medicine.Read moreRead less
The epic history of how antibiotics were born, saving millions of lives and creating a vast new industry known as Big Pharma.
As late as the 1930s, virtually no drug intended for sickness did any good; doctors could set bones, deliver babies, and offer palliative care. That all changed in less than a generation with the discovery and development of a new category of medicine known as antibiotics. By 1955, the age-old evolutionary relationship between humans and microbes had been transformed, trivializing once-deadly infections.
William Rosen captures this revolution with all its false starts, lucky surprises, and eccentric characters. He explains why, given the complex nature of bacteria—and their ability to rapidly evolve into new forms—the only way to locate and test potential antibiotic strains is by large-scale, systematic, trial-and-error experimentation. Organizing that research needs large, well-funded organizations and businesses, and so our entire scientific-industrial complex, built around the pharmaceutical company, was born.
Timely, engrossing, and eye-opening, Miracle Cure is a must-read science narrative—a drama of enormous range, combining science, technology, politics, and economics to illuminate the reasons behind one of the most dramatic changes in humanity’s relationship with nature since the invention of agriculture ten thousand years ago.Read moreRead less
The exclusive, first-hand, behind-the-scenes story of how Pfizer raced to create the first Covid-19 vaccine, told by Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla.
A riveting, fast-paced, inside look at one of the most incredible private sector achievements in history, Moonshot recounts the intensive nine months in 2020 when the scientists at Pfizer, under the visionary leadership of Dr. Albert Bourla, made “the impossible possible”—creating, testing, and manufacturing a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine that previously would have taken years to develop.
Dr. Bourla chronicles how the brilliant, dedicated minds at Pfizer, under the enormous strains of the global pandemic, overcame a series of crises that were compounded by social and political unrest, and reveals the doubts, decisions, obstacles, and failures they encountered. As Dr. Bourla makes clear, Pfizer’s success wasn’t due to luck; it was because of preparation driven by four simple values—Courage, Excellence, Equity, and Joy.
Moonshot is a story of leadership under the most unprecedented circumstances—how Dr. Bourla, a Greek immigrant, a child of Holocaust survivors, and a veterinarian, became the head of one of the world’s largest corporations and initiated a dramatic transformation of the organization just before a global health crisis would serve to test the organization, its scientists, and its leader, like never before. Moonshot describes best practices that can be used to address the multiple, unprecedented challenges our world faces, reveals Pfizer’s implementation of scientific breakthroughs at a record-breaking pace, and offers leadership lessons that can help anyone successfully manage their own seemingly unsolvable problems. As Dr. Bourla explains, “I am sharing the story of our moonshot—the challenges we faced, the lessons we learned, and the core values that allowed us to make it happen—in hopes that it might inspire and inform your own moonshot, whatever that may be.”
Wall Street Journal Bestseller
2022 Genesis Prize LaureateRead moreRead less
In this timely and much praised book, Barry Werth draws upon inside reporting that spans more than two decades. He provides a groundbreaking close-up of the upstart pharmaceutical company Vertex and the ferocious but indispensable world of Big Pharma that it inhabits.
In 1989, the charismatic Joshua Boger left Merck, then America’s most admired business, to found a drug company that would challenge industry giants and transform health care. Werth described the company’s tumultuous early days during the AIDS crisis in The Billion-Dollar Molecule, a celebrated classic of science and business journalism. Now he returns to tell a riveting story of Vertex’s bold endurance and eventual success.
The $325 billion-a-year pharmaceutical business is America’s toughest and one of its most profitable. It’s riskier and more rigorous at just about every stage than any other business, from the towering biological uncertainties inherent in its mission to treat disease; to the 30-to-1 failure rate in bringing out a successful medicine even after a molecule clears all the hurdles to get to human testing; to the multibillion-dollar cost of ramping up a successful product; to operating in the world’s most regulated industry, matched only by nuclear power.
Werth captures the full scope of Vertex’s twenty-five-year drive to deliver breakthrough medicines. At a time when America struggles to maintain its innovative edge, The Antidote is a powerful inside look at one of the most intriguing and important business stories of recent decades.Read moreRead less
Join journalist Barry Werth as he pulls back the curtain on Vertex, a start-up pharmaceutical company, and witness firsthand the intense drama being played out in the pioneering and hugely profitable field of drug research.
Founded by Joshua Boger, a dynamic Harvard- and Merck-trained scientific whiz kid, Vertex is dedicated to designing—atom by atom—both a new life-saving immunosuppressant drug, and a drug to combat the virus that causes AIDS.
You will be hooked from start to finish, as you go from the labs, where obsessive, fiercely competitive scientists struggle for a breakthrough, to Wall Street, where the wheeling and dealing takes on a life of its own, as Boger courts investors and finally decides to take Vertex public. Here is a fascinating no-holds-barred account of the business of science, which includes an updated epilogue about the most recent developments in the quest for a drug to cure AIDS.Read moreRead less
Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel
The next frontier in technology is inside our own bodies.
Synthetic biology will revolutionize how we define family, how we identify disease and treat aging, where we make our homes, and how we nourish ourselves. This fast-growing field—which uses computers to modify or rewrite genetic code—has created revolutionary, groundbreaking solutions such as the mRNA COVID vaccines, IVF, and lab-grown hamburger that tastes like the real thing. It gives us options to deal with existential threats: climate change, food insecurity, and access to fuel.
But there are significant risks.
Who should decide how to engineer living organisms? Whether engineered organisms should be planted, farmed, and released into the wild? Should there be limits to human enhancements? What cyber-biological risks are looming? Could a future biological war, using engineered organisms, cause a mass extinction event?
Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel’s riveting examination of synthetic biology and the bioeconomy provide the background for thinking through the upcoming risks and moral dilemmas posed by redesigning life, as well as the vast opportunities waiting for us on the horizon.
Named one of The New Yorker’s BEST BOOKS OF 2022Read moreRead less
Jeffrey L. Rodengen
Founded as a fine-chemicals manufacturer in 1849, Pfizer has grown into one of the most innovative healthcare companies in the world. During World War II, Pfizer used its mass fermentation process to mass-produce the wonder drug penicillin, thus saving thousands of Allied lives. Today, with revenues topping $15 billion, Pfizer’s drug pipeline is the envy of competitors and its pharmaceuticals for animals and humans make it a leader in its therapeutic categories. In 1999, the company celebrated its 150th year in business, and was named Company of the Year by Forbes Magazine. With information available nowhere else, this book is the result of years of research, countless interviews, and extensive archival review. Illustrated with images from the company’s inception to present day, The Legend of Pfizer chronicles the story of a company that has become an integral part of our lives.Read moreRead less
An in-depth look at big pharma’s flagship company.
The Merck Druggernaut takes readers inside Merck, the world’s second most profitable drug company and maker of the world’s bestselling drug, Prilosec. Consistently named one of Fortune magazine’s Most Admired Companies, Merck struggles to maintain its reputation for being the most ethical of the big drug makers, refusing to slash research and development budgets in the face of declining profits, falling stock market prices, and questionable accounting. Author Fran Hawthorne, one of the leading journalists covering healthcare, has written an excellent examination of a business paragon with much-needed insight on the cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals. It’s a story that will interest the business world as well as consumer and healthcare advocates by detailing the vital issues in medicine and healthcare today. More than just a compelling story of success in a difficult industry, more than simply the biography of one of big business’s most recognizable names, The Merck Druggernaut takes a thoughtful look at some of the major issues of our time and the way those issues intertwine with the world of business.
Fran Hawthorne (New York, NY) is the Assistant Managing Editor at Crain’s New York Business. She has been covering business for more than twenty years for such publications as Fortune, BusinessWeek, and Institutional Investor, with a prevailing interest in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. At Crain’s, she spearheads the publication of two to three special healthcare issues per year.Read moreRead less
Dinesh Singh Thakur and Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu
Since 2004, when the fraud at Ranbaxy, the largest Indian pharmaceutical company at the time first came to light, the Indian pharmaceutical industry and clinical research organizations have been rocked by a series of scandals after investigations by American and European drug regulators. While the West has responded to concerns about quality of “Made in India” medicine by blocking exports from many Indian pharmaceutical companies, the Indian government responded not with regulatory reform but conspiracy theories about “vested interests” working against India.
More worryingly, the Indian state has also turned a blind eye to a far more serious quality crisis in its domestic pharmaceutical market. At times, these quality issues manifest themselves in the deaths of Indian citizens as happened in early 2020 when 11 children died in Jammu because of adulterated cough syrup. On other occasions, a dodgy drug approval process has led to the Indian regulator approving sales of drugs that have never been approved by regulators in the developed markets. The result is not just poor health outcomes but outsize profits for pharmaceutical companies manufacturing medicines that have never been validated through scientifically rigorous clinical trials for therapeutic evidence.
These twin crises, in both the domestic and export markets, is because India has either outdated regulations or no regulations in some areas. Even the outdated regulations are enforced with kids gloves by drug inspectors and judicial magistrates who are ready to forgive even those whose drugs are found to contain barely any active ingredient or dangerously high levels of bacterial endotoxins. In a race for growth of the pharmaceutical industry, the Indian state has sacrificed scientific rigour and ignored the basic principles of public health. Given India’s position as the pharmacy of the developing world, the failure of the Indian state is a problem for not just India but most of the developing world.
This timely, important and compelling book based on deep research, questions and analyzes the actions of the institutions that are responsible for the safety and efficacy of the Indian drug supply in the context of the historical evolution of the Drugs Act 1940 from pre-Independence India to the present day. The future of Indian public health lies in responding to the issues raised in this book.Read moreRead less