California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public

Pills, Power, and Policy: The Struggle for Drug Reform in Cold War America and Its Consequences

December 22, 2011 | Dominique A. Tobbell, Co-published with and distributed by the University of California Press

Since the 1950s, the American pharmaceutical industry has been heavily criticized for its profit levels, the high cost of prescription drugs, drug safety problems, and more, yet it has, together with the medical profession, staunchly and successfully opposed regulation. Pills, Power, and Policy offers a lucid history of how the American drug industry and key sectors of the medical profession came to be allies against pharmaceutical reform. It details the political strategies they have used to influence public opinion, shape legislative reform, and define the regulatory environment of prescription drugs. Untangling the complex relationships between drug companies, physicians, and academic researchers, the book provides essential historical context for understanding how corporate interests came to dominate American health care policy after World War II.


“Tobbell analyzes the political and economic history of the alignment of the pharmaceutical industry, academic institutions and their faculty and organized medicine. This book is essential reading for policymakers and their staff as well as persons who study the history of health policy and those who contribute to it through medical research, advocacy and journalism.”Daniel Fox, author of The Convergence of Science and Governance: Research, Health Policy, and American States

“Dominique Tobbell’s vivid, balanced and probing account of pharmaceutical politics is a significant, needed analysis of the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry, university researchers, the medical profession and government in the Cold War period. More than this, Pills, Power, and Policy shows why it continues to be difficult to agree in the United States on the relative roles of corporate enterprise, government regulation, technological innovation, freedom to prescribe, and consumer marketing and protection, all played out against the rising costs of health care. Timely and thought-provoking.”Rosemary A. Stevens. DeWitt Wallace Distinguished Scholar, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College

310 pages
Cloth $68.95
Paper $28.95
Ebook $28.95