DES: The Bitter Pill, Book by Robert Meyers

An informative look at the medical, emotional, and legal ramifications of the diethylstilbestrol drug

How medical indifference turned a miracle drug into a national nightmare

by Robert Meyers, president, National Press Foundation

Kirkus Review
image of the book DES the bitter pill
Provides an informative look at the medical, emotional, and legal ramifications of diethylstilbestrol, a drug originally prescribed by physicians to prevent miscarriage that causes cancer and other reproductive ailments.

The unthinking development and tragic use of diethylstilbestrol from 1941 to 1971 – without the freshness, clarity, or applicability of DES: The Complete Story (1981), by Cynthia Orenberg, a medical writer and a victim. Robert Meyers begins with the drug’s synthesis in England, and follows its popularization and marketing, there and in the US, as a treatment for threatened miscarriage – to the point that it was prescribed for women with no symptoms or history of miscarriage. (Some of those treated, in fact, were pregnant for the first time.) The beginning of the end came in 1971 with the first published report linking DES to cancer in the female offspring of women who had taken the drug. The frenetic outcome included lawsuits by patients, FDA foot-dragging, and catastrophic medical treatment – elements which Meyers is unable either to disentangle or weave together coherently. In his view, this twisted tale “is preeminently a story of people – the women who took it” and their families; all the other aspects – political, economic, medical – are “really elements that enter the funnel of American health care and come out on the doorsteps of American consumers.” And, rather than give the doctors’ role a hard going-over, Meyers takes a few tired pot-shots. (when a physician-interviewee puts on a white coat: “What was there about wearing that white coat? Did he speak better wearing the coat? With more authority?”) For rigor as well as personal involvement, Orenberg is far superior. Sources:

More DES DiEthylStilbestrol Resources
On Flickr®

2 thoughts on “DES: The Bitter Pill, Book by Robert Meyers”

Have your say! Share your views