Side Effects

A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial

By Alison Bass
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Hardcover, 9781565125537, 260pp.)

Publication Date: June 2008

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As the mental health reporter for the "Boston Globe," Alison Bass's front-page reporting on conflicts of interest in medical research stunned readers, and her series on sexual misconduct among psychiatrists earned her a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Now she turns her investigative skills to a landmark case that exposed increased suicide rates among adolescents taking popular antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
In "Side Effects" we meet a courageous Ivy League university employee who risked her job to expose suspicious practices at her lab, a feisty assistant attorney general who spearheaded an unprecedented lawsuit against a pharmaceutical giant, plus the medical researchers who were being paid by the drug companies whose products they were testing. And Bass introduces us to the vulnerable children and adults placed at risk because of greed, corruption, and negligence.
Though pediatric prescriptions of Paxil--at the time one of the world's bestselling antidepressants--were soaring, there was no hard proof that the drug performed any better than sugar pills in children and adolescents. Bass reveals how data from drug trials and the suicide risk the drug posed were withheld, allowing GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, to mislead physicians and consumers about the safety and efficacy of the drug.
When the New York State attorney general's office brought its lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline for consumer fraud, it launched a tidal wave of protest. As a result of this case, drug companies agreed to publish negative results from their research studies. A congressional investigation into industry practices finally prompted the FDA to mandate strict warnings for allantidepressants.
In the tradition of "A Civil Action," "Side Effects" goes behind the scenes of the headline-making case that forced the government to start protecting its citizens. It lays bare the unhealthy state of our country's pharmaceutical industry.

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