Avorn, Jerry 1948-

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Avorn, Jerry 1948-


Born 1948; married Karen Tucker; children: Nat, Andrew. Education: Graduated from Columbia University, 1969; graduated from Harvard Medical School.


Home—Boston, MA. Office—1620 Tremont St., Ste. 3030, Boston, MA 02120; fax: 617-232-8602.


Educator, internist, geriatrician, pharmacoepidemiologist, researcher, and author. Associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics and director of the Program for the Analysis of Clinical Strategies, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Has served as president of the International Society of Pharmaco-Epidemiology.



Up Against the Ivy Wall: A History of the Columbia Crisis, Scribner (New York, NY), 1968.

Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs, revised and updated, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.


Jerry Avorn was born in 1948 and grew up in New York City. He attended Columbia University during the time of the Vietnam War and became known as one of the leading activists against the war on his campus. During this time he wrote the book Up Against the Ivy Wall: A History of the Columbia Crisis, which depicted the history of student demonstrations at Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia in 1969 he pursued his medical degree at Harvard Medical School, where he completed his training in internal medicine. Avorn has remained at Harvard Medical School in a professional capacity, as a primary care physician, member of the faculty, and researcher. He resides outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife, Karen Tucker, and has two grown sons, Nat and Andrew.

Avorn's main topic of interest is prescription medications, specifically the manner in which they are prescribed to patients, the patients' reactions to prescription drugs, and the economic result of this interaction. During the 1980s he invented "academic detailing," which consists of utilizing the drug company's communications strategies in order to provide unbiased, evidence-based education about the proper method of prescribing drugs. This new method of prescribing drugs has been employed worldwide by the medical community. His highly regarded observations and research on prescription medication have secured Avorn's reputation as an expert within his field and has provided him with the opportunity to testify before Congress on medical-related issues. His work has been featured on National Public Radio and in USA Today.

Avorn's second book, titled Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs, was inspired by his knowledge that a huge gap existed between the information provided to doctors and patients regarding prescription drugs and the information the drug industry possessed. According to Avorn, one of the main problems within the drug industry is that it is not required to test new drugs against old drugs in order to compare effectiveness or safety. Other issues include the inability to track a drug's side effects and the high prices of prescription drugs. He believes that the government can help combat these problems by ensuring that all drugs on the market are safe, effective, and affordable.

Many critics responded favorably to Powerful Medicines. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education reviewer Angela Dominelli wrote: "Through notable quotes, vignettes, and effective analogies, this book provides a comprehensive, interesting, and thought-provoking view of a multidimensional problem that requires a multifaceted solution." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the work "an informative and highly readable study that makes a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion of an important health care issue."



American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Volume 69, number 1, 2005, Michael Montagne, review of Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs.

American Scientist, January-February, 2005, Arthur L. Caplan, review of Powerful Medicines

Booklist, August, 2004, Donna Chavez, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 1879.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2005, L.B. McHenry, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 1622.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22, 2005, Harold P. Lehmann, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 3109.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 563.

Library Journal, July, 2004, "Corporate Medicine," p. 110.

New York Times Book Review, November 14, 2004, "The Drug Lords," p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, June 7, 2004, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 41.

Science News, October 16, 2004, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 255.

SciTech Book News, March, 2005, review of Powerful Medicines, p. 7.


American Scientist Online,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (February 25, 2008), Amos Etsy, interview with Jerry Avorn.

Australian Prescriber Online,http://www.australianprescriber.com/ (February 25, 2008), John Marley, review of Powerful Medicines.

Health Affairs Online,http://www.healthaffairs.org/ (February 25, 2008), Helene Levens Lipton, review of Powerful Medicines.

Mental Help Net,http://www.mentalhelp.net/ (October 7, 2005), Leo Uzych, review of Powerful Medicines.

Powerful Medicines Web site,http://powerfulmedicines.org (February 25, 2008).