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The poison line


It has been called the worst treatment disaster in the NHS’s history. But when it was first used Factor VIII was pitched as a medical miracle: a drug made from human plasma that enabled haemophiliacs to lead lives free of fear that a minor injury would prove fatal. But in the 1980s, tens of thousands of haemophiliacs began to test positive with HIV and AIDS. Their life-saving treatment Factor VIII was infected. Award-winning journalist and host of the Bed of Lies podcast Cara McGoogan traces the line of infection, corruption and corporate greed back to four pharmaceutical companies who sourced plasma from American prisons, nightclubs and on Skid Row in LA, turned it into Factor VIII, and then sold it around the world.

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The full and shocking account of one of the biggest medical disasters in history – and the lengths that big pharma, the NHS and governments worldwide took to cover it up

‘A devastating piece of reportage. Books are routinely described as extraordinary, but this one really is’ John Preston, author of Fall

Factor VIII was billed as a medical miracle when it was put on the market in the late 1960s: a revolutionary treatment that meant people with haemophilia no longer feared a bleed might prove fatal.

But as the treatment was rolled out, haemophiliacs began to contract hepatitis and AIDS in terrifying numbers. Rumours circulated in the press; a climate of fear took hold. How safe was Factor VIII?

Even as medical bodies and pharmaceutical companies tried to discredit whistleblowers and diminish the evidence, it became abundantly clear that the ‘miracle’ treatment was infected. Before long, Factor VIII was killing the very people it promised to protect. And government embarked on a cover-up on an industrial scale.

Award-winning investigative journalist Cara McGoogan follows the survivors-turned-campaigners, the small-town lawyers and the fearless journalists who took on some of the most powerful interests in the world to uncover what really happened in the infected blood scandal.

The Poison Line is the gripping tale of a terrible scandal’ Jonathan Freedland, author of The Escape Artist

‘This is a vital account of the infected blood scandal and subsequent cover-up . . . The truth must be told’ Andy Burnham

‘Cara McGoogan is an indefatigable detective and a born storyteller’ Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

‘The definitive account of one of modern medicine’s most chilling scandals’ Gerald Posner, author of Pharma


A Financial Times and Prospect 2023 Book of the Year

Read a sample here

Additional information

Weight 0.648 kg
Dimensions 24 × 16.2 × 3.7 cm










362.196979200941 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K