• Ten Drugs

  • How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine
  • By: Thomas Hager
  • Narrated by: Angelo Di Loreto
  • Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (4,520 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Behind every landmark drug is a story. It could be an oddball researcher’s genius insight, a catalyzing moment in geopolitical history, a new breakthrough technology, or an unexpected but welcome side effect discovered during clinical trials. Piece together these stories, as Thomas Hager does in this remarkable, century-spanning history, and you can trace the evolution of our culture and the practice of medicine.   

Beginning with opium, the “joy plant,” which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book.

©2019 Thomas Hager (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Ten Drugs

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Informative, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

When I went into this book, I was pretty firmly in the camp of those who wish ill on pharmaceutical executives as a matter of course, and I won't say this book changed my mind -- I doubt anything could -- but it does provide for a more nuanced approach to the general question of where drug companies fit in our society. Hager is honest and clear about the good *and* the bad they've done over the years -- and about *how* those good and bad things were done.

Refreshingly, Hager does his level best not to lead the reader/listener down any paths other than the strictly factual/historical, leaving it up to all of us to draw our own conclusions. The fact that these conclusions are, most often, 'drug companies are, often, massive pits of soulless, profit-mongering amorality' is... well.

That's just how this works. As Hager points out, often enough for us to get the point, but not *too* often, it takes a massive outlay of money in order for any drug to be discovered, and that's *before* all the vastly necessary safety tests. They have to make money if we're going to get anything out of them, and that means they're going to squeeze us for everything we're worth.

Still, more than the look at the pharmaceutical companies, this book is a rich and fantabulous look at the drugs themselves. Having studied a fair amount of neurochemistry and biology, I would say that this book doesn't go especially deep into the science, but it does go deep enough to be satisfying -- and accurate. You're *going* to learn something -- and have fun while you're at it.

Fun side note: I gave the performance 5 stars, mostly because di Loreto is occasionally more angry with the drug companies than Hager is. LOVE IT.

140 people found this helpful

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A good read

I liked the way that the author covered the drugs with stories. I thought that the histories of each one was entertaining.

26 people found this helpful

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Engrossing to physicians & lay persons alike

As a physician, a scientist, and an all around nerd, my Audible library vacillates between SciFi and Historical non-fiction. Although this book firmly resides in the latter category, I found it completely captivating and engrossing more akin to a good drama. For the most part, the book comes off like a PBS documentary in its audiobook narration, but it is structured more like a dramatic story with you (or maybe I should say "humankind") positioned as the protagonist of this historical exploration drama. Thomas Hagar has done an excellent job in turning what could have been a very dry topic full of dates, names and anecdotal stories, into more of a first person exploration of the topic. I have at least a dozen titles in my Audible library on the topic of science and medicine, and "Ten Drugs" has instantly shot to the top of my list of favorites (in that category). It is easy to listen to, easy to digest, and ultimately very informative (and I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself bring up something you learned from this book the next time you're out with friends).

171 people found this helpful

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One of the best books in my library.

The stories in this book are universal and relevant for any listener. I have retold the stories of these drugs over and over again. what an amazing job. the writing is spot on and the narrator knocks it out of the park.

32 people found this helpful

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Doctor Review

As a practicing physician I found this book extremely important. I already shared much of its opinions and hope most other practitioners do as well. Great history lessons and hopefully lessons applied to the future of keeping humans healthy.

14 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and so informative

This could have been a very dull book.
I took a chance and was thrilled.

28 people found this helpful

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Like a good detective story

This is a fascinating book that made me want to go back to studying chemistry and molecular cell biology. The stories behind the drugs and other therapies pull you in like a good detective story. I feel that the author has a somewhat naive axe to grind against companies that have helped bring about so many discoveries, but it doesn’t diminish the book.

36 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable and Informative

Really enjoying this book. It is quite engaging despite the subject matter being entirely non-fiction. Love the narrator too, he reminds me of a radio drama narrator.

41 people found this helpful

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Too much political posturing

The author starts with a promise that he doesn't have a personal agenda, but then repeatedly promotes his personal politics throughout the book (and states as much at the end of the book). If you can stomach the self-righteous ranting and virtue signaling, then the stories and history are pretty good.

8 people found this helpful

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It never gets boring

First things first the narrator nailed it. The content itself was also highly gripping. At times I would have liked a more detailed explanation of the some of the mechanics of the ideas that were being presented (such as the autoimmune system in the second to last chapter), but other than that it's a great introductory text to the world of pharmaceuticals.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-22-20

Fascinating!

Fascinating subject, well researched.
Presented in a light and easy to absorb format. Explains complex concepts in a layperson style without "dumbing down".
In each case it includes a brief background history of the circumstances that brought about the creation/discovery of the various drugs both medical and recreational and examins their use in modern times.
I found the section on drugs, politics and finance particularly interesting - concerning how funding and/or the inclination for research is more easily addressed for some types of diseases or medical conditions but not others.
A pionent review on the subject of how some countries treat recreational drug users as criminals (The War on Drugs) or as victims and how these different attitudes affect society as a whole.
It also tackles the current "Anti-Vax" movement and the use of homeopathic drugs. Personal choice or selfish ignorance?
A most enlightening read.

My only criticism is the quality of the recording - not the narrator. The narrator's voice is clear, well paced and engaging. It seems to be a technical issue resulting in any word with a "S" in it sounding like an off-tuned "Short Wave radio" transmission from the moon. Try saying "Symbiosis, cynapsis, sepsis" etc. This can be mitigated somewhat by turning down the treble on the player but it is still a distraction.
Audible, please Quality Check your products.


17 people found this helpful

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  • Jo
  • 08-23-20

The history of medicine - really interesting

What a fantastic book about the history of medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about early use of opioids (laudanum), pain killers, antibiotics, obituates and more. The early chapters look at the trade of drugs - the initial excitement about their discovery, the politics, followed by the negative side effects. He looked at who used to push drugs, who pushes drugs now. (Historically users often tended to be the well off and middle classes with medical professionals extolling their benefits). There is a very interesting part that seems to rewrite the history I was taught about smallpox and vaccinations. It includes the pioneering work of Edward Jenner, but then we hear that actually in Turkey, vaccinations were happening a long time before he came along!

There is a chapter about statins, where the author, Thomas Hager, looks at their history, who benefits and the risks they may pose. Using his own personal experience he argues that deciding whether or not to take them is not as clear as the pharmaceutical industry leads us to believe.

The book meanders through history, the breakthroughs, euphoria, the tragic consequences of unknown side effects through poor or ineffective drug trialing. The pattern throughout history becomes apparent that drugs start off being celebrated for their amazing properties and only later, usually when it’s too late comes the realisation that there are usually major negative side-effects.

As a historical overview I enjoyed this a lot.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Ercan Eski
  • 03-13-21

Turkish Ottoman amazing healing style

I like the book but I think I didn't get 17 century ottoman discripe barbarian in this book, I am not agreed, compare to Europe ottoman were respecting woman more then west, example if woman healing people in 17 century in West they might get killed by king because think she must be witch, also just become a empire ottoman some tribes rulled by lady lider, but ottoman woman healed English woman very basic techniques, sound to me ottoman had more knowledge life then west ?

4 people found this helpful

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  • Clive Smart
  • 07-14-20

Very well read and very interesting

A wonderful guide to the history of medicine through the prism of 10ish drugs. We see the incredible and often scary influence of these drugs in medicine and society and the history of their discovery, development and use. Great chapters on opioids, pain killers, vaccines, antibiotics, statins...a whistle stop tour of our ongoing historical use of drugs, the battle with viruses and drugs, the pharmaceutical industry, addiction and side effects...overall: a fascinating keeper. Very well read. A keeper.

3 people found this helpful

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  • jason houghton
  • 04-16-20

Excellent

I really enjoyed this book.. very interesting and very informative without going overboard. As well as the drugs/medications, you will learn a good deal about world history too!

If you’re interested in medication and history of the world, I would recommend this book :)

3 people found this helpful

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  • Laura Nolan
  • 09-03-21

Really interesting

I found this to be a really interesting overview of how some medicines came to be. It is easy to listen to the narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tim Futter
  • 08-28-21

But boring in places

Good book. Very interesting and knowledgeable...
Just a bit dry in places and dull.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-20-21

Great book

Absolutely loved this book. Gave such an interesting history of the drugs and then putting it into a modern social context. A must read if you like popular science.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ale
  • 04-29-21

A must read for science lovers

Beautifully written book, amazing stories about live changing drugs together with meaningful data to make inform decisions about the pills we take

1 person found this helpful

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  • JK
  • 04-11-21

One of the best books I have read

Originally got this because I had credits to spend.
I have a medical background so drawn to this book.
I think that everybody should red this book. It goes into ten land mark drugs, how they were found or made, the history of their development and use. It also goes into wars waged around these drugs.
I found myself looking forward to each new drug in the list .
You do not have to have a medical background to read and enjoy this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chrisitne Nielsen
  • 05-21-22

Best book read this years

If you are interested in history and medicine this book is for you! Great narration as well!

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  • Molly M M
  • 11-20-21

Fascinating !

Very interesting . Very informative about drugs and their enormous effect on lives politics sociology etc ..
Absolutely recommend … loved it !