A Drug Company, the EU and a Hero

I’ve just finished writing a book entitled My Favourite Books – which contains small essays describing over 100 of my favourite non-fiction books. One of the books included is ‘Roche versus Adams’:

Roche versus Adams
Stanley Adams
First published 1984

Stanley Adams’ book really plucked at my heart strings when it was first published.

Hoffman-la-Roche, the manufacturer of benzodiazepine tranquillisers such as Valium and Librium and, at the time the world’s largest supplier of vitamins, had been a target of mine since before I wrote my first book ‘The Medicine Men’ in 1975.

I had, since around 1970, been a staunch critic of Roche because of the unbridled and unfettered enthusiasm with which the company promoted its benzodiazepines. (My recent book The Benzos Story summaries my early research into the perils of those over-sold, over-prescribed and over-swallowed drugs.)

Adams was a well-rewarded, senior employee at Roche. In 1973 he became aware that Roche was price fixing and controlling the world wide vitamin market.

When Switzerland (where Roche was based) signed a free market agreement with what was then called the Common Market (now known as the European Union), Adams approached the Market’s commission in charge of competition laws. And, after having blown a rather loud whistle, he left Roche and put his life savings into a pig farm in Italy.

In 1974, Adams and his family crossed into Switzerland for a New Year’s Eve family celebration. That was when his nightmare started.

Adams was arrested, put into solitary confinement and tried for industrial espionage and treason. All this because he had told the Common Market about Roche’s dirty dealings and the Common Market had run to Roche and told them of his whistle blowing.

Marilene Adams (Stanley’s wife) wasn’t allowed to communicate with her husband and was told that he faced up to 20 years in prison. Despairing, she committed suicide. Almost unbelievably, Adams wasn’t told for days and was refused permission to attend her funeral.

After being released on bail Adams went home to look after his three daughters and his pig farm. But bank facilities previously arranged were suddenly ‘not forthcoming’ and Adams went bankrupt and lost his farm.

In 1979, on Christmas Eve, Adams was again arrested and imprisoned.

He later fought for compensation from what had by now become the European Economic Community and eventually had a tenth of his debts paid. When released from prison Adams fled to England.

That, in the proverbial nutshell, is the horrific story told in ‘Roche versus Adams’. Adams, the honest whistle-blower, was damned near destroyed by Roche and the European Union.

After I read this book, I made sure that I paid off my mortgage as quickly as possible and never again borrowed any money from anyone.

Taken from My Favourite Books by Vernon Coleman and just published.