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Drugs mismarketed abroad; Prescriptions for Death: The Drugging of the Third World, by Milton Silverman, Philip R. Lee and Mia Lydecker. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. 186 pp. $16.95.

In Japan during the 1950s, medical technicians searched unsuccessfully for the cause of a raging epidemic. Not until many years later was the culprit determined to have been a drug called entero-vioform, developed for treatment of amoebic dysentery but also marketed in Japan as a preventive for other unspecified illnesses. In subsequent lawsuits, the courts blamed the manufacturer for failing to caution against uses other than the one intended.

The fact that such warnings weren't given then and still aren't in many nations of the world is the theme of this well-documented study, which shows that many pharmaceutical companies from both capitalist and socialist countries employ lax standards in marketing their products in the third world.

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The authors focus on the most commonly prescribed medications, showing how unevenly warning notices are distributed, and they offer ideas that could help eliminate the dangers of ''drug colonialism.''

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