From Publishers Weekly
This densely researched report adds to the growing literature on Big Pharma's efforts to sell blockbuster drugs and with its two crusading heroes seems ready for Hollywood. Expanding on her reporting for the Boston Globe,
Bass focuses on psychiatrist Martin Teicher, who as early as 1988 noticed that the antidepressant Prozac seemed paradoxically to cause suicidal thoughts in his patients, and the nearly blind Rose Firestein, a lawyer in the New York State attorney general's office who was investigating the inappropriate marketing and use of Paxil for unapproved purposes. Drug companies insisted there was no scientific evidence whatsoever linking GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil, Ely Lilly's Prozac and other serotonin-increasing antidepressants to suicidal thoughts and behavior, and Bass describes the dogged battle to show that company researchers had deliberately suppressed the results of trials with negative outcomes. Bass also follows the story of Tonya Brooks, an unhappy teenager who attempted suicide while taking Paxil. Although the story sometimes gets lost in the details of then attorney general Eliot Spitzer's 2004 suit against GlaxoSmithKline (eventually settled for $2.5 million), this story of determined do-gooders is inspiring. (June)
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Science journalist Bass gives us a book with a bonus. The book is about a conscientious whistle blower and a feisty New York State assistant attorney general who believed something about the promotion of the billion-dollar antidepressant Paxil stank. Individually, they didn’t know exactly what was wrong with the way the manufacturer, then SmithKline Beecham, was promoting the drug, but together they exposed a cover-up involving everyone from drug company executives to so-called independent researchers to medical journals and even the FDA. The conspiracy concealed negative side effects from physicians who, in good faith, prescribed Paxil, which ultimately exacerbated the conditions of already severely depressed patents, which led some of them to suicide. The bonus is an important caveat, a warning that, when only positive clinical test results are reported, there is much to be gained by too many greedy people, and that passing medical journal and FDA muster may not guarantee that critical information hasn’t slipped through the cracks in a flawed system. --Donna Chavez