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

by Alison Bass
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 17, 2008 1565125533 978-1565125537 1
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.

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125537
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
It's horrifying to read about our dependence on drugs. I was shocked with the first story: A teenager feels uncomfortable in social situations. She sees an ad on television promising a drug to turn teens from wallflowers to social butterflies. She asks her doctor for the drug. No problem, he says. He's not a psychiatrist, but he is an MD.

Aside from concerns about effects of these drugs on children and young people, why doesn't someone ask why doctors encourage patients to seek solutions in a bottle? How is depression diagnosed (or over-diagnosed)?

Then we have a story of a psychiatrist at Brown University who appears to be billing the government for research he's not conducting. He's also adjusting research reports to discount side effects.

He's still around, still holding a prestigious position at Brown University, still receiving research grants.

Author Bass also quotes a disturbing statistic: doctors who accept money from pharmaceutical companies (for research, consulting or testifying) tend to prescribe a lot more medication than those who don't.

The fiery, likeable prosecutor battles her own vision problems as well as the pharmaceutical industry. It's frustrating to read about the legal minutiae she has to address while people are dying from these drugs. The judge's name sounds familiar: I believe she was also the judge in the Martha Stewart case.

At the end of the book, we learn that the troubled teen lost her pill-induced "suicidal ideation" after discontinuing Ambien and Paxil. She has learned to accept her personality and she's found the perfect job as a veterinary technician.

That's the good news. But as Bass reports, FDA reports still depend on doctors who accept money from drug companies, but claim they remain unbiased. Maybe they could work on a drug to cure their deep denial.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Exposé June 23, 2008
Alison Bass brings all the players to life, both the good and the bad, in this well documented story behind the NY Attorney General's legal action against GSK. This book is in the tradition of Erin Brokavich or A Civil Action; it reads like a novel, like a thriller in fact, only it's true. No one could make this stuff up. I could not put it down. Bass deserves a lot of credit for her courage in writing this. Not only does she expose the underbelly of academic research at prestigious Ivy League schools, but also uncovers the sordid manipulation of patient advocacy groups like NAMI by pharmaceutical interests. Nothing is sacred. She goes after it all and it's a story that needs to be told in full just as it is here. I hope it will be widely read. It is a useful and exciting addition to the many books coming out about the corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, academic research, and the regulatory authorities, bringing it down to a very human level.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Side Effects reads like a novel, even though it is a factual, non-fiction book. It is a well-written, outstanding story that depicts how several pharmaceutical firms along with the FDA intentionally did not disclose the negative, suicidal side affects of anti-depressant drugs such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. Alison Bass weaves this story through a few victims and researchers who were trying to get out the truth and stand up against some very powerful, manipulative and well-financed pharmaceutical companies who make billions of dollars from these drugs. A must read!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read in Our Pill-Popping Culture July 2, 2008
This account of shady goings on in the U.S. drug-industrial complex is an eye-opener. Even though the subject matter might seem a bit sterile -- clinical trials, the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry, and university researchers -- Side Effects is a delightful page-turner. The reader is drawn into the lives of the characters and the details of their compelling stories as if one were reading a novel or detective story. Side Effects is a must read in our pill-popping culture.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Specific Example April 24, 2009
This is a carefully written book that illustrates an example of a larger issue with the FDA and the prescription drug industry written autobiographically by a journalist. I think it's a great book, but I would suggest this is not the first book you read on the subject, because this is a book about a specific example. An example of a good first choice would be Marcia Angell's Truth about Drug Companies. Then, read this one.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Expose of the Pharmaceutical Industry July 20, 2008
In this gripping expose, Alison Bass manages to turn the inner workings of medical research, clinical trials and the legal system into a literary page-turner. Through tireless reporting, she brings to life several characters who made a huge impact in one small corner of the pharmaceutical industry, while also laying bare a medical system that continues to put Americans at risk. This is an important book that deserves much attention.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book of Truths Exposing Big Pharma's Lies January 31, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a fairly new book and very well written, I can only hope that this book gets into the hands of many interested parties and many more that should be aware of what is happening all around us. This book is based on facts of true stories and shows how the doctors, the pharmaceutical giants and the FDA have all been manipulating us for a very long time. Alison Bass has done an amazing job of bringing these stories together and putting it out there for millions to see.

I have always been a big fan of former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and this book shines a light on him showing some of the progress that he has made. He successfully cracked his way into many large corporations to expose the wrongful things they do. These corporations felt they were too big and too powerful to be held responsible for their actions. He cut them off at the knees and brought them down to size. He made sure these guys played by the rules and its a shame he is no longer in charge.

There are stories in this book that will send chills up your spine like a horror movie, only then to be snapped back to reality realizing these are true stories that really happened. This book has cemented the original reasons why I have been determined to find the truths about antidepressants and those that manufacture them and push them on the people that should not be on them in the first place. This book is an eye-opener for anyone who believes that, for the most part, your doctors, Big Pharma and the FDA are here to protect you. They will force pills on you that are not safe, because you don't know any better. Educate yourself and read this book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, not dry non-fiction at all
I generally avoid non-fiction books because they tend to be a bit dry, but this one kept me engaged. It reads like a novel, but without any embellishment of the facts. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Alt
4.0 out of 5 stars TAKE PILL AT YOUR OWN RISK
The fact that this book was published in 2008 makes it no less relevant today. It is an eye opening exposé into the workings of Government and the Pharmaceutical industry. Read more
Published 7 months ago by little lady blue
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected!
A real whistle-blower indeed! With so much reliable data, which includes Lab names and dates, it is easy to believe all this research journalist says about drug scams,... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Elba J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Not only is this journalistic book engaging and well written. It also helped me identify that medicine prescribed for my 14 year old child was damaging her memory and moods. Read more
Published 14 months ago by P. Puttre
5.0 out of 5 stars book
received this book promptly in great condition and packaged well. Should be a good read,The prices were so good I ordered several books, now just have to figure out which to read... Read more
Published 23 months ago by amanda
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice review of an important issue
Alison Bass presents strong evidentiary support for one side of this debate. Quite a good amount of research was done to build her side.
Published on February 27, 2012 by Boris
5.0 out of 5 stars Side Effects of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Bullying, corruption, and...
Alison Bass's book Side Effects makes for a great read. Bullying, distortion of the truth, coercion, and patient deaths from side effects of drugs. Read more
Published on August 26, 2011 by J. Douglas Bremner
5.0 out of 5 stars Side Effects
"SIDE EFFECTS" should be read by anyone who takes prescription medications, it seems we are a population of pill pushers. A pill cures all "HA". Read more
Published on July 20, 2010 by Mabel K. Billings
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible story everyone should be aware of
A great story. Well documented account of the terrible abuses of psychoactive drugs in kids.
Published on March 12, 2010 by J. Loerke
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