Review: New book spotlights rogue lab and a shadow industry

Jason Dearen, "Kill Shot: A Shadow Industry, Deadly Disease" (Avery)

Lower back pressure, lower back pain.

Stenosis of the spinal cord.

Cataracts. Cataracts.

Many of these disorders are treated with compounding medications.

And these medications can blind or injure you, mainly due to an almost complete lack of regulatory regulation.

In his brilliant but anxious new novel, "Kill Shot," Affiliated Media Investigative Jason Dearen discusses the shadow market of pharmacies compounding and numerous failed attempts to reel in them.

In 2012 it created mold-infest batches of an injectable steroid that killed more than 100 people and sickled almost 800 others in 20 states. The news is based on the New England compounding center.

Eventually the facility in Framingham Massachusetts, half an hour west of Boston, was shut down and thirteen people were accused of federal offenses including co-owner Barry Cadden and pharmacist supervisor Glenn Chin.

But, as Dearen makes clear in his closely written tale, the issues posing by compounding pharmacies — accounting for at least 10 percent of the country's supply of drugs — are far from over.

Using excerpts, interviews, the FDA inspection records and other documents, he reconstructs this slow-moving disaster in almost film-intensive sequences.

We visit the sympathetic patients, many of them the elderly coping with chronic pain, who died of fungal meningitis and its complications after receiving the injections.

We also encounter the dismal laboratory operators, who plan to become wealthier by cutting corners, recruiting unskilled workers, performing a dirty activity and depending on payments for business.

Although some of the NECC workers finally held accountable, they had a host of facilitators.

These include the Pharmaceutical Alliance advocacy group; members of Congress who welcomed their political donations and murdered major reforms; and the US.

The Supreme Court created a provision of the law in 2002 intended to provide further oversight to the FDA.

Fortunately, there were some good guys: mainly the diligent Doctors and scientists who have monitored the enigmatic epidemic of deadly infections in real time and restrict their scope with public alerting at hospitals, state health laboratories and federal departments, including the FDA and the CDC.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, "Kill Shot" has demonstrated the overall fragility of the US medical system.

By concentrating on just one part of it, Dearen has done a major public service.

He has a convenient checklist of inquiries about pharmaceutical items, but his taking is inevitable.

Consumers will do better to read about care services and tough legislation.

Your lives — and those of your loved ones — will rely on it.