Dr. Paul A. Offit tells the story in The Cutter Incident, the best account you will ever read about the interplay between big drug companies and bigger government.

- Forbes

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Vaccines have saved more lives than any other single medical advance. Yet today only four companies make vaccines, and there is a growing crisis in vaccine availability. Why has this happened? This remarkable book recounts for the first time a devastating episode in 1955 at Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California, that has led many pharmaceutical companies to abandon vaccine manufacture.

Drawing on interviews with public health officials, pharmaceutical company executives, attorneys, Cutter employees, and victims of the vaccine, as well as on previously unavailable archives, Dr. Paul Offit offers a full account of the Cutter disaster. He describes the nation’s relief when the polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk in 1955, the production of the vaccine at industrial facilities such as the one operated by Cutter, and the tragedy that occurred when 200,000 people were inadvertently injected with live virulent polio virus: 70,000 became ill, 200 were permanently paralyzed, and 10 died. Dr. Offit also explores how, as a consequence of the tragedy, one jury’s verdict set in motion events that eventually suppressed the production of vaccines already licensed and deterred the development of new vaccines that hold the promise of preventing other fatal diseases.

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Reviews of The Cutter Incident

The Cutter Incident offers a concise and thoroughly documented account (well illustrated with rare period photos) of a medical tragedy and its continuing consequences. Offit presents a powerful case for a far more enlightened approach to the development and use of lifesaving vaccines...

- Olen Kew , Science

A fascinating and highly readable account of the development of the polio vaccine...

- Stanley Goldfarb , New York Post

Offit does a superb job of maintaining the readers’ attention as he describes ‘the Cutter incident’ using a thriller-style approach combined with an accurate dissection of what went wrong and of the short- and long-term consequences...

- Paul-Henri Lambert , Nature Medicine

He also provides a comprehensive history of the development, production, and wide use of the inactivated polio vaccine in the United States during the 1950s...

- David L. Heymann, M.D. , The New England Journal of Medicine

What makes this book extraordinary is the author's ability to weave the well-known and less-well-known historical events into a compelling and thought-provoking essay on the challenging vaccine issues of today...

- Walter R. Dowdle , Microbe

He’s undeterred, even as he acknowledges the irreconcilability of two positions: that we want to believe that we know everything that we need to know before giving new vaccines to our children, and that as medicine advances during the next 100 years, we will know more...

- Ivan Oransky , The Lancet

The Cutter Incident is well written and easily understood by nonspecialists, who will understand the challenges of infectious disease and vaccine development, yet balanced with enough technical detail for a medical professional to read informatively cover to cover...

- Michael Fitzpatrick , Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

The Cutter Incident is well written and easily understood by nonspecialists, who will understand the challenges of infectious disease and vaccine development, yet balanced with enough technical detail for a medical professional to read informatively cover to cover...

- Mark K. Slifka, PhD; Ian J. Amanna, PhD , JAMA

In writing this wonderful book, Offit had a plain purpose: to show how we got into this situation and the price we are paying for it, and to contrast the risk taking that led to the development of the Salk vaccine in the 1950s with the timidity that forces even effective vaccines to be withdrawn from the market today. The message is equally plain: The existing situation is both costly and avoidable; the rules need to be changed...

- Scott Barrett , Health Affairs

Dr. Paul A. Offit tells the story in The Cutter Incident, the best account you will ever read about the interplay between big drug companies and bigger government...

- Peter Huber , Forbes

This entertaining, well-written book provides valuable insights into three interrelated areas, all built around the story of the Cutter incident, a landmark case that in some ways continues to have implications for product liability and the health of the vaccine industry today...

- John Treanor , Environmental Health Perspectives

Written at a level the layperson will understand, but still engaging for readers with a health care background, the book is a quick and interesting read...

- Christina Cameli, RN, SNM , Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health

The Cutter Incident is an absolute model of its genre. It is so tautly written that it reads like a good thriller...

- Theodore Dalrymple , City Journal

The Cutter Incident is an enjoyable read, at times like a detective thriller, at others like a courtroom drama...

- Jonathan R. Carapetis , British Medical Journal

Offit outlines the rippling effect the Cutter incident has had on vaccine production...

- Gail O. Guterl , Advance for Nurses