In 2015, the British Association for American Studies and the University of East Anglia awarded A Prescription for Scandal the Arthur Miller Centre First Book Award. The book has received positive reviews in Social History of Medicine, Canadian Journal of History, and Choice. I’m pleased to announce that a paperback (and cheaper!) version of my book will be available in May, 2016.
- “The effect of presidential and interest-group politics on public agencies has been a fundamental problem in public administration for more than a century. This new book, a case study of the Food and Drug Administration during the 1980s, is an effort to show how President Ronald Reagan’s budget and regulatory policies impacted the FDA’s effectiveness in protecting the public and in supporting the creation of new pharmaceuticals. This period was also the time of the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the rapid growth of generic drugs. Richert suggests that many of the FDA’s difficulties in the 1980s and beyond can be traced to the Reagan administration’s budget cutting, Congress’s expansion of the agency’s range of responsibilities, and political pressures from HIV/AIDS advocates and makers of generic drugs. He based his analysis on a wide range of secondary sources, along with official documents from the FDA and elected officials. Readers will reach different conclusions regarding the book’s success in establishing the causal connections between Reaganism and the FDA’s problems, but the book makes a strong case that the FDA does not operate in a political vacuum. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduate collections and above.” (CHOICE)
- “This book is a contribution to a growing body of scholarship on the history of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). . . .The book tells an interesting part of the FDA story in the 1980s that can be put into longer historical perspective.” (Social History Of Medicine)
- “Lucas Richert’s book ably reviews the place of the FDA in the modern regulatory order, and helps make the agency’s struggles comprehensible. Richert shows that our system of drug approval and regulation cannot be understood in simple back-and-white terms. Instead, a host of competing interests pull the FDA in all sorts of directions. Anyone interested in contemporary drug regulation will find this a useful resource.” (Joseph F. Spillane, University of Florida)
- “Conservatives, Consumer Choice, and the FDA in the Reagan Era is an engaging analysis of the influence of presidential ideology, congressional oversight, and the political character of the FDA’s leadership on the agency’s institutional identity and regulatory work. Lucas Richert’s compelling and nuanced perspective exposes the limits of the deregulatory ethos of the Reagan era and demonstrates the persistence of an institutional identity that has balanced the imperatives of consumer safety against those of pharmaceutical innovation. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the recent history of pharmaceutical regulation and for policymakers engaged in the making of pharmaceutical policy.” (Dominique Tobbell, University of Minnesota)
- “A thoughtful and accessible narrative history that situates the FDA in the partisan and ideological politics of the long Reagan era.” (David Herzberg, University at Buffalo, State University of New York)
Everyone knows someone or some story that reminds us of the incredible power of the pharmaceutical industry in our everyday lives. We see the advertisements during football games and The Good Wife. We see them in Men’s Health as well as Shape and Cosmo. The ads are everywhere. And by most accounts we’re consuming more and more pills every year.
My 2014 book, Conservatism, Consumer Choice and the FDA during the Reagan Era: A Prescription for Scandal, tries to understand the American drug industry in the era in which I grew up, the 1980s. Ronald Reagan was President. Dynasty, Dallas, and The Dukes of Hazard were on the television.
In writing this book, I tell a sometimes frightening story about how the regulation of Big Pharma got twisted, turned, and pulled upside down by politicians, consumer groups, and drug industry leaders. At the centre of this tug-of-war was the Food and Drug Administration, an independent government agency that was constantly under pressure during the 1980s.
The stakes were extremely high. Lives were at stake. People’s health rested in the balance.
In 2016, these things haven’t really changed. We still need to make tough choices about the role prescription and non-prescription drugs play in society. Sure, the drug industry has done important things for our health, and yet it also has too much power and influence in our lives. I hear this all the time. I’m hopeful that my book can shed some light on how we’ve gotten to this point and help us think about the future.