On the afternoon of March 19, 2000, Vanessa Young, a 15-year-old girl from Oakville, Ontario, suffered a severe reaction to a common drug that she was taking to relieve the stomach discomfort and nausea she had been experiencing after meals. The following day, Vanessa died. The young woman’s death launched her grief-stricken father, businessman and former member of Parliament Terence Young, on a campaign to find out how the widely prescribed medication Prepulsid led to his daughter’s death – and why hundreds of similar cases are allowed to occur every year.
Death by Prescription follows Young’s investigative journey into the world of “Big Pharma.” Are these huge multinational companies so concerned about reaping gigantic profits that they fail to provide sufficient warnings about the risks involved in taking many of their drugs? Or are doctors and patients somehow ignoring those warnings? Despite the pain and anger he feels as a result of Vanessa’s death, Young determines that he will pursue the answers to these questions in a calm, rational way; to do otherwise would be to risk seeing himself written off as “pathetic” and “weeping.”
Of course, there is a lot of raw emotion in these pages – Young admits that at the outset he “was prepared to raise holy hell” – but he tempers that emotion with an ability to present various sides of an issue, and to take into consideration the different implications of his findings. This is not an overly personal, “why did this have to happen to me?” story. Instead, Young marshals the analytical skills honed in his many years of business and political experience into a dispassionate, measured investigation. The result is a compelling, well-structured read that will be appreciated by any reader with an interest in the inner workings of big drug companies. And given that millions of Canadians take prescription drugs every year, this should be a large readership indeed.