Writing the Big Picture

Published on
November 23, 2009

Blogs, twitters and daily print help keep us abreast of breaking news. But there's nothing like an old-fashioned book to get inside a big sweeping tale. In the summer of 2007, when I was a fellow here, I had little more than a vision for a book that explored Big Pharma. Well, I also had some solid sources, a blockbuster drug, and a dramatic plot that spanned some 20 years. The hard part was finding a place to adequately tell the tale. Over the course of two years and in between other projects, I shared aspects of this work-in-progress with some fellows and colleagues, notably Isabelle Walker, Martha Shirk and the great Rita Beamish. The feedback was invaluable.

My agent just last week sold the English rights to my narrative non-fiction book called "Blood Feud: The Man Who Blew The Whistle on Big Pharma and the Deadliest Perscription Drug in History" to Dutton of New York. The book explores the growth of anti-anemia drugs Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp through the eyes of two sales reps for a Johnson & Johnson unit. It details how kickbacks to doctors, rebates to hospitals and fraudulent billing practices helped pump sales of the expensive drug. Players include figures at the FDA, the DOJ, Congress and the courts, including Jan Schlichtmann, the crusader who gained fame for suing polluters W.R. Grace and Beatrice Co., as depicted in another book called "A Civil Action."

Sometimes there's nothing like Gunterberg's 1455 invention to convey a modern health-care tale. And nothing beats the camraderie of fellows and friends in overcoming the challenges we face in getting our stories out there. kathleensharp.com