Miracle Cure
Michael Palmer
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Get Michael Palmer's *Miracle Cure* delivered to your door! Miracle Cure
Michael Palmer
448 pages
January 1999
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Michael Palmer, a lifelong physician, has shared the top of the medical thriller mountain with Robin Cook for years. Miracle Cure is vintage Palmer, a novel that reveals that the same human tendencies to greed and evil exist in the world of medicine as they do in any other civilized arena.

Curled Up With a Good BookBrian Holbrook's dreams of a professional football career were shattered by an injury in college, but he went on to become as skilled a cardiologist as he had been on the playing field, to get married and to father two daughters. But that life-defining injury left Brian with an addiction to pain killers that would cost him the two most important things in his life: his family and his career. After years of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and a series of nongratifying jobs--car rental jockey, bouncer--Brian longs for the opportunity to practice medicine again.

Opportunity knocks unexpectedly during an emergency trip to the hospital to keep his father's failing heart beating. On the busy ER at White Memorial Hospital, Brian helps out an old friend on staff by diagnosing a patient not responding to treatments for a heart attack. Brian recognizes hyperthyroidism as the culprit, something he's seen only once before, and turns out to be right. Brian's friend is impressed with the astute diagnosis, and recommends Brian to the chiefs of staff at White Memorial. The powers that be at the prestigious hospital agree to take Brian on; they push to have his license reinstated, and Brian's dreams for a career rebirth seem to be realized. Better, he is offered the chance to work for the Boston Heart Institute, where a drug discovered in a South American jungle, Vasclear, seems to be the miraculous cure for arteriosclerosis. The number one killer of both men and women, it is also the disease that is robbing Brian's father of his life.

Brian's father, Jack, refuses to have another surgery to add at least a few years to his longevity. Brian presses to have his father added to the Vasclear trials. Although two top cardiologists, one working with Vasclear and one suspicious of the drugs's efficacy, recommend surgery for the aging and ailing football coach, Jack resists and Brian tenaciously secures a place for his father in the trials. But Jack is assigned to the placebo pool; he will be getting nothing more than a sugar pill. Brian wrestles with his conscience and common sense, and finally decides that losing his license again is a risk he'll have to take to grant his father a better chance at a longer life. Brian has seen the X-rays that are the proof of the drug's amazing capabilities to cure arteriosclerosis. He believes that Vasclear is Jack's only hope, and he begins stealing the drug to administer to his father.

FDA approval is the only thing standing between Vasclear's manufacturers and a whole lot of money. Enlisting the voluble aid of a conservative U.S. congressman, the backers of Vasclear get the approval process fast-forwarded. But the head of the FDA has serious doubts about any drug being pushed through for general use without the most rigorous testing. His assistant approaches Brian about just keeping an eye out for anything untoward he might notice in the trials or about Vasclear. Torn between his need to do what is right, his budding romance with the FDA assistant, his father's precarious health and the pressure being applied to him by his superior's at Boston Heart Institute, Brian uncovers a conspiracy fueled by greed and the desire for power. The players in this nearly invisible pharmaceutical war are not above doing anything to get the riches that Vasclear can get them -- including sacrificing the life of one desperate, recently reinstated doctor.

Miracle Cure makes some interesting points about the high-handedness of both the FDA and the pharmaceutical giants in the realm of capitalistic medicine. Palmer gets a little heavy-handed at times with the whole Twelve Steps thing in the course of Brian's continuing recovery from addiction. All in all, this is a serviceable medical thriller that probably won't surprise but should delight Palmer's legion of fans.

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