Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial
Side Effects wins the NASW Science in Society Award. Here's an excerpt from the NASW announcement:
"In Side Effects, Alison Bass, an investigative journalist who has covered medicine, science, and technology for The Boston Globe and other publications, tells the story of how pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline systematically misled physicians and consumers about the safety and efficacy of Paxil, a popular antidepressant." It's a very complicated issue, and the author conveyed this like a mystery story," said one of the judges, noting that, "Her investigations led to changes in policy in many areas of public health, not only nationally but internationally."-- NASW News
"Bass's narrative bristles with data without fraying into tedium. Side Effects is long-form journalism at its best." -- The Washington Post
"Side Effects reads like a John Grisham thriller, but it teaches you everything you need to know about how some drug companies have used their marketing and legal muscle to lie about science."--The Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Side Effects: A Prosecutor,
a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial
tells the true story of a groundbreaking court case and the personal drama
that surrounded the making and unmasking of a bestselling drug. It chronicles
the lives of two women - a prosecutor and a whistleblower - who exposed
the pattern of deception in the research and marketing of Paxil, an
antidepressant prescribed to millions of children and adults.
Side Effects introduces us to a fabulous cast of characters:
a feisty district attorney in the mold of Erin Brockevitch who takes on big pharma
and wins; a courageous whistleblower whose own child suffers from mental illness;
a controversial medical researcher being paid by the drug companies whose products
he's testing; and of course the victims - those whose suffering was intensified
by greed, negligence, and deception within the medical establishment.
captures the anything - goes decade of drug
development, as drugs like Prozac, Paxil and Vioxx became blockbuster drugs and
pharmaceutical companies went to sometimes shocking lengths to reap profits. In
telling the dramatic saga of the New York AG's lawsuit against one drug
company, this book lays bare the longstanding complicity between medical
researchers and the pharmaceutical industry - a collusion that places
vulnerable children and adults at risk every single day.
With meticulous research, Alison Bass lays out the insidious connections
between pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (the maker of Paxil), a top Ivy
League research institution, and the government agency designed to protect the
Why this story is so important:
- Paxil was the best-selling antidepressant in the world in 2002, with sales of $3.3 billion worldwide.
- Pediatric prescriptions for Paxil soared in the U.S. even though there was no hard evidence the drug performed any better than sugar pills in treating depression in children and adolescents.
- The authors of an influential Paxil trial in adolescents misrepresented data in order to minimize the suicide-related risks of the antidepressant, allowing GSK to mislead physicians and consumers about the safety and efficacy of Paxil.
- The New York Attorney General's case was the very first lawsuit filed against the pharmaceutical industry for consumer fraud and paved the way for other states to rein in the excesses of pharmaceutical companies.
- The settlement against GSK created an environment in which other drugs, including Vioxx, whose safety had not been properly disclosed, were pulled from the market; it also called for the public posting of all drug studies and additional black box warnings on certain medications, something that the pharmaceutical industry had fought against for years.