The Poison Line

The Poison Line

A True Story of Death, Deception and Infected Blood


The shocking true story of the infected blood scandal: the worst treatment disaster in NHS history, which saw people infected with HIV by a revolutionary medical treatment and a cover-up from governments and the multi-billion-dollar plasma industry.

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

‘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.

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. 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.

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

'McGoogan's work serves as a beacon for those of us dedicated to uncovering facts in the service of justice and human rights' Eliot Higgins, author of We Are Bellingcat

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

Shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize 2024

A Financial Times and Prospect 2023 Book of the Year


  • Told with page-turning pace, a forensic grasp of detail and deep human compassion, The Poison Line is the gripping tale of a terrible scandal. It turns on the hubris of doctors, the folly of politicians and, above all, the greed of some of the world's biggest drug companies. At its centre, are the people - many of them children - who trusted those who promised to heal them and paid an unforgivable price for that trust. In telling their story, and laying bare a cover-up maintained over four decades, Cara McGoogan has done them - and all of us - an essential service
    Jonathan Freedland, author of The Escape Artist

About the author

Cara McGoogan

Cara McGoogan is the award-winning writer of Bed of Lies, a documentary podcast series that investigates major British scandals, including the Infected Blood Scandal. McGoogan has won two Society of Editors’ Press Awards, a Media Freedom Award and a British Journalism Award. In 2022 she was awarded the Stern-Bryan Fellowship at the Washington Post, which is given annually to Britain’s best early-career journalist. McGoogan is the Telegraph’s first Narrative Audio Journalist. The Poison Line is her first book.
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