Virtual Event: John Abramson


How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care
and How We Can Repair It

in conversation with Dr. HELEN MACDONALD


February 11, 2022
12:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes physician and health care policy expert JOHN ABRAMSON for a discussion of his latest book, Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It. He will be joined in conversation by Dr. HELEN MACDONALD, research integrity and publication ethics editor of The BMJ.

Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store

While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Sickening on, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.

Click here to join!

About Sickening

The United States spends an excess $1.5 trillion annually on health care compared to other wealthy countries—yet the amount of time that Americans live in good health ranks a lowly 68th in the world. At the heart of the problem is Big Pharma, which funds most clinical trials and therefore controls the research agenda, withholds the real data from those trials as corporate secrets, and shapes most of the information relied upon by health care professionals.

In this no-holds-barred exposé, Dr. John Abramson—one of the foremost experts on the drug industry’s deceptive tactics—combines patient stories with what he learned during many years of serving as an expert in national drug litigation to reveal the tangled web of financial interests at the heart of the dysfunction in our health-care system. For example, one of pharma’s best-kept secrets is that the peer reviewers charged with ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the clinical trial reports published in medical journals do not even have access to complete data and must rely on manufacturer-influenced summaries. Likewise for the experts who write the clinical practice guidelines that define our standards of care.

The result of years of research and privileged access to the inner workings of the U.S. medical-industrial complex, Sickening shines a light on the dark underbelly of American health care—and presents a path toward genuine reform.

Praise for Sickening

“The Purdue Pharmaceutical company and its owners, the Sackler Family, have paid out billions of dollars in legal settlements, after deploying sales personnel to mislead physicians into believing that Oxycontin was not an addictive opioid. As John Abramson brilliantly shows in Sickening, the Purdue gang was simply following a script used by drug companies generally, hyping medicines and deceiving physicians about every aspect of their safety and efficacy. It’s a medical horror show.”—Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

“Dr. Abramson’s book is a scholarly tour de force that should be read by all prescribers, researchers, publishers of that research, and users of pharmaceutical drugs.” —Catherine DeAngelis, Editor in Chief Emerita, Journal of the American Medical Association

Sickening is a must-read for all health professionals and anybody impacted by prescription drugs—that is, all of us. The book rigorously and convincingly documents that Big Pharma is largely responsible for the horrendously expensive yet inferior health care in the United States. To improve Americans’ health, a large proportion of the US population must read the book and incrementally reverse this travesty. When that happens, it will improve the health of the rest of the world as well.” —James M. Wright, MD, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia

Dr. Helen MacDonald
Dr. Helen MacDonald

Dr. Helen MacDonald

Helen MacDonald works as an editor for The BMJ, an international, general medical journal. She has received training and experience as a family physician, in journalism and evidence based medicine, in London and Oxford. Over her 12 years at the journal Helen has commissioned, edited and podcasted a wide range of academic and less formal content, often working on creating and communicating evidence for doctors, patients and the the public to share together. More recently she has worked on The BMJ's content, campaigns and conferences on overdiagnosis, medical excess, commercialisation and the production of better evidence.

John Abramson
John Abramson

John Abramson

John Abramson has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for twenty-five years, where he teaches health care policy.  He also served as a family physician for 22 years, during which he was named a "top doctor" six times in local, state, and national surveys. In addition to many academic articles and op-eds in the New York Times and other publications, he is the author of Overdo$ed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine. Dr. Abramson has appeared on Today, CNN's American Morning, NPR's All Things Considered, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, The Dr. Oz Show, and elsewhere. He lives near Boston.

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Classic Totes

Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs
, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!

Learn More »

Shipping & Pickup

We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!

Learn More »

Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!

Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.

Learn More »