The following are indispensable, and I put them in rough order of importance. These authors are primary contributors who were watching the disaster unfold and have been studying it for decades. I put an * on the most approachable reads.
Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America (2008) by Nortin Hadler, MD: This describes all of medicine. The prose is a master class in eloquence and clarity. Dr. Hadler tells what treatments work and which do not. If he appeals to you, you will enjoy his other books, including The Citizen Patient (2013), Stabbed in the Back (2009), and Rethinking Aging (2011). His affiliations include Yale, Harvard, and the National Institutes of Health, and he is board-certified in internal medicine, rheumatology, allergy, and geriatrics. He is an emeritus professor at the University of North Carolina medical school.
Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime (2013) by Peter Gøtzsche, MD. This book has over 900 citations. I list him second because he is the second most important influence on me and the most comprehensive single reference about the drugmakers. However, I do not recommend starting with him because he is too shocking for an introduction to the subject.
Gøtzsche tells us that the pharmaceutical industry is dirty. He worked for eight years for them, so he knows his subject. He is also a Cochrane group co-founder. Start with his YouTube videos.
Then, for even more harrowing reading, see Gøtzsche’s Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial (2015). SSRI suicide and murder stories are riveting. His prose is unvarnished, with canny images and a few charming Danish idioms. There were so many unpleasant revelations that I had to proceed slowly. If you can tolerate reading his books, you will never be the same. Others are Survival in an Overmedicated World, Death of a Whistleblower, Mammogram Screening, Mental Health Survival Kit, and Vaccines.
*Anatomy of an Epidemic (2010) by Robert Whitaker is an exhaustively referenced and dispassionately written book about psychiatric medications. The evidence suggests that these drugs are beneficial only for the sickest patients, and for just a limited time. Whitaker is a world-class researcher and writer. He started a blog, madinamerica.com, written by working mental health providers who are trying to reform their system. His YouTube videos are great. He also wrote Psychiatry Under the influence (2015)
*Final Analysis by Jeffrey Masson will convince you that talk therapy is not to be trusted, either. He is one of the best writers here and has one of the most incredible stories.
*An American Sickness (2017) by Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD: At the time of publication, this was the best single work about the American healthcare financial disaster. See also Steven Brill’s Time articles.
We can only fully understand the greed through stories. The drugmakers, insurance, hospital corporations, and device manufacturers are the worst. Doctors, the “durable medical equipment” people, and many others also have their snouts in the trough.
Rosenthal shares my respect for Kaiser Permanente. After her research, Ms. Rosenthal quit her prestigious New York Times writing job and became the chief editor of their in-house publication.
*Bad Pharma (2012) by Ben Goldacre, MD, a physician, and statistician: This is an excellent place to start. See his blog, YouTube videos, TED talk, and this review. Witty and amusing UK writing style.
Pharmageddon (2012) by David Healy, MD, an academic psychiatrist-scientist who has published widely. He has been looking at this material for decades. See davidhealy.org, his YouTube videos, and Let Them Eat Prozac (2004). These tell the history of SSRI antidepressants and the suicide coverup. If you are depressed about drug companies, this will make it worse. His prose is witty and eloquent, with lovely anglicized allusions and the best titles.
*The Danger Within Us (2017), by Jeanne Lenzer, is about the nearly unregulated medical device industry. She builds the story around a patient who had a defective nerve-stimulation device.
How We Do Harm by Otis Brawley, MD (2012): This academic oncologist and statistician explains many of the scams that now pass for medicine. These are my words, not his. Because he is an excellent academic, he often says “no evidence exists” for certain practices. This contrasts with my personal and less scholarly conclusion that when we study thousands of patients, and they reach no definite conclusions, it means that a treatment or test does not work.
Brawley was the head of the American Cancer Society (ACS) for eleven years until he resigned in late 2018. A New York Times article described his frustration with the Society getting involved with groups such as Herbalife, the multi-level-marketing vitamin and supplement seller. They now broadcast their relationship with the ACS.
*Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban (2019). She spent five years investigating generic drugs. There are problems with US manufacturers, but India and China are worse. Her marvelous storytelling, with assorted criminals and detectives, reads like a crime novel.
ChinaRx by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Singh is mainly about the generics and China.
*Overtreated (2007) by Shannon Brownlee has excellent descriptions of industry kickbacks and payoffs. Lovely writing style and storytelling.
*Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (2015) by Martha Rosenberg. This is about FDA corruption. She is an eloquent writer who has been watching the drug scene for 16 years. She explains the FDA's mismanagement of both the food and drug industries. EBT cards, the new, politically correct name for food stamps, are used to purchase ten percent of the calories consumed in the US, including Snicker’s bars and colas. Therefore, food is a government-subsidized industry, and, like the drugmakers, we have to contend with the snack and junk-food manufacturers lobbying to keep the money flowing.
*American Meth (2006) by Sterling Braswell: These are anecdotes about the US abuse situation. Meth may be the saddest drug story of all.
*ADHD Nation (2016) by Alan Schwarz is about amphetamines. This material is not in the other books.
ADHD Does Not Exist (2014) by Richard Saul: Psychiatry’s promotion of ADHD medicines and the case against them.
The ADHD Fraud (2006) by Fred Baughman is more about this.
A Disease Called Childhood (2015) by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D. This is a well-written indictment of the ADHD diagnosis and stimulant treatments.
*Dreamland (2015) by Sam Quinones is the story of opioids in the USA. He explains the relationship between prescriptions, black tar heroin, Purdue Pharma, and social forces. It reads like top fiction.
*The Emperor’s New Drugs (2011) by Irving Kirsch is the story behind how antidepressants got FDA approval, then about the detective scientists who uncovered the fakery. The drug company researchers confessed to knowing about their bad data from the start, long before Kirsch and his colleagues found out about it. They called it “their dirty little secret.”
On the Take, How Medicine’s Complicity With Big Business Can Endanger Your Health (2004) by Jerome P. Kassirer, MD: The author is a former editor of NEJM, the medical journal with the top worldwide reputation. He describes the corporate payoffs to journals, physician groups, researchers, and individuals. Kassirer understandably has few issues with the NEJM.
Overdiagnosed, Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health (2011), by H. Gilbert Welch, MD et al.: He describes how more and more sensitive laboratory values with little basis in science drive our therapies. Many medications and other treatments barely work or do not work. Marketing, selling drugs, and making money are the primary goals rather than patient well-being.
*The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman (2006) by Peter Rost. This book reads like a novel. He was a senior executive at several pharmaceutical companies. It is the only first-hand, comprehensive source I found from the inside of the drug industry. I learned that when a company defrauds the US federal government, federal prosecutors collect up to triple damages, and whistleblowers get 15 to 30 percent. Rost believes corporations in other industries are like the pharmaceutical companies, but that the drugmakers’ position of public trust makes them more malignant. Things are worse now than in 2006. See also his YouTube videos.
*Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery (2017) by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin: Back therapies have virtually no supporting science. Ramin tells what is wrong and what to do instead.
America’s Bitter Pill (2015) by Steven Brill is mainly a history of the ACA for political geeks. He makes it interesting, however, and there are many insights from the interviews.
Malignant: How Bad Policy and Bad Evidence Harm People with Cancer (2020) and Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives (2015) by Vinay Prasad. This guy is a genius in his mid-30s. He has over 200 academic publications and a podcast.
Peter Breggin began exposing psychiatry from the mid-1990s before anyone else wrote about how bad the drugs were. When I read him then, I discounted what he said because it sounded extreme. I have since come to the realization that Breggin was completely right in every detail. I do not think his work is the easiest place to start, but for completeness, here are some of his books. Toxic Psychiatry (1994). Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. (2012). Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (2009). Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Prozac and the Newer Antidepressants (1994, 2014).
For more about why I respect neurosurgeons, read *When The Air Hits Your Brain (1996), *Do No Harm (2014), and *When Breath Becomes Air. All three are stunning. The author of this last book died of lung cancer at 37, yet worked until the end. Their field is unlike the medicine practiced by the rest of us ordinary mortals.
The Zyprexa Papers by Jim Gottstein is about big Pharma bullying an individual attorney.
Pharma by Gerald Posner is a history. The behavior of these people is not new.
*Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler. He wrote that the Germany of World War II was partially due to drugs. I liked this and thought the thesis was plausible. My editors disagreed with me and thought that I should not include it.
ABOUT MY WRITING PROCESS
I was influenced by Stephen King’s On Writing and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Turning Pro, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and Do the Work. I also liked Bryan Cohen’s How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis. Ryan Holliday taught me to mistrust online sources with his Trust Me, I’m Lying. He is a remarkable individual in his 30s who has tutored the modern world about Stoicism. If you are interested in this, start with his The Obstacle is the Way, or better, read the original Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
HOW I AM LEARNING ABOUT BOOK MARKETING
Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller was a fountain of unconventional ideas. He was my original inspiration to make my book free. I also read his Growth Hacker Marketing. Dave Chesson’s kindlepreneur.com was where I started learning about book marketing. He does free well, and we all love free. I use his Publisher Rocket software to help me with Amazon keywords and categories. I have listened to many podcasts, but you should go through Dave’s first because he is the best! Joanna Penn and The Self Publishing Show are good too.
PROGRAMS I USE:
I learned that when I paid someone to do a book task, it often needed to be done over by me. So I have figured out how to do a lot myself.
The program I’ve spent thousands of hours with (and am on now) is Scrivener. It has a small learning curve, but if you write anything beyond 1000 words, it helps you organize. For larger documents, it is essential. Fiction writers have a religious cult based on it. It works for Macs but not for PCs.
I use the getresponse.com email marketing system because their support and ease of use are better than the competitors such as mailchimp.com. I used Grammarly for years as a prose auto-editor but immediately converted to ProwritingAid after I discovered it. It makes many more suggestions than Grammarly and plays better with Scrivener.
Vellum is an easy-to-learn platform that I used to typeset. It takes the document from MS Word, which downloads from Scrivener, into a beautiful book. Vellum even makes font choices easy.
I did my audiobook recording using an Audio-technica ATR2100x-USB microphone plugged right into my MacBook using the USB port. This mike is $99. It is accurate, durable, and perfect for podcasts or book recording. The Blue Yeti is another similar choice. I used the Reaper program to record. It is free on a trial for two months. You also need a microphone stand and a holder. Some people record podcasts with the guests holding their own mikes.
I have used Cultured Code Things for decades to list priorities and sort my thoughts. This is based on David Allen’s work. Start by reading his classic book Getting Things Done. I have gone over it many times.