Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial

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9781565125537: Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial

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 a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Now she turns her investigative skills to a controversial case that exposed the increased suicide rates among adolescents taking antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.

Side Effects tells the tale of a gutsy assistant attorney general who, along with an unlikely whistle-blower at an Ivy League university, uncovered evidence of deception behind one of the most successful drug campaigns in history. Paxil was the world's bestselling antidepressant in 2002. Pediatric prescriptions soared, even though there was no proof that the drug performed any better than sugar pills in treating children and adolescents, and the real risks the drugs posed were withheld from the public. The New York State Attorney General's office brought an unprecedented lawsuit against giant manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, for consumer fraud. The successful suit launched a tidal wave of protest that changed the way drugs are tested, sold, and marketed in this country.

With meticulous research, Alison Bass shows us the underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry. She lays bare the unhealthy ties between the medical establishment, big pharma, and the FDA—relationships that place vulnerable children and adults at risk every day.

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From the Inside Flap :

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 all antidepressants.

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.

About the Author :

Alison Bass has covered medicine, science, and technology for the Boston Globe and other publications, including the Miami Herald, Psychology Today, and Technology Review. She has received top media awards from the National Mental Health Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and an Associated Press First Place Award. She has taught journalism courses at Boston and Brandeis universities and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

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Alison Bass
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