Abbey's Reviews > Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial

Side Effects by Alison Bass
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Feb 05, 2012

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Read in February, 2012

I simultaneously want to give this book 1 and 5 stars.

+1: The book details the lawsuit brought against GlaxoSmithKline for deliberately suppressing data on the effects of Paxil on children. Specifically, that Paxil (and all SSRI's) cause an increase in suicidal ideation among children and teenagers.

This subject is, of course, deeply personal, since I was a Paxil baby myself. While I was picking blood clots out of my wrist from my failed suicide attempt, Glaxo was raking in cash hand over fist.

Jaded as I am, there were still a few stories that surprised me. For example, did you know that pharmaceutical companies lobbied the FDA intensely in the 1990's to eliminate the requirement for placebo-controlled trials for antidepressants? Probably because placebos account for 82% of the effect of real antidepressants (from a meta-analysis by Irving Kirsch et. al. that includes published and unpublished data). Your drug effect leaves something to be desired, broham.

As a scientist, I find this absolutely appalling. As a snarkist, I'm like, whooo, 3 points on the HAM-D scale, and all I have to give up is my sex drive and my will to live?!? Sign me up!

The book also clearly documents systematic "miscoding" of serious adverse events in clinical trials. There were many cases where a child attempted suicide, but instead of adding that data to the study, they coded it as "noncompliance." Which is to say, they completely omitted that data.

Surprise, surprise: when billions of dollars are on the line, companies can't be trusted to do honest science.

-1: The author clearly has no scientific or medical training whatsoever. Also the writing style is terrible.

The book is just filled with shit like, "the deposition ended pretty much on time at 5:40 p.m."

If she took out all the stories related to Rose Firestein's deteriorating eyesight, the book's word count would shrink by 50%.

Sciencewise, it drove me nuts that she called them "isomers" when she meant "enantiomers" and didn't italicize her R's and S's. Additionally, she listed Wellbutrin as an SDRI when it is clearly an NDRI. Also I think she tried to insinuate that Prozac caused suicidal ideation because it's a chloride salt?

In summary: this book both blows and is important. Read it or don't, but please stop feeding SSRIs to your kids.

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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine Noel I love your reviews.

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