Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial is a nonfiction book by investigative journalist Alison Bass, which tells the true story of a court case and the personal drama that surrounded the making of a bestselling drug. It chronicles the lives of two women – a prosecutor and a whistleblower – who exposed deception in the research and marketing of Paxil, an antidepressant prescribed to millions of children and adults. The book shows the connections between pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (the maker of Paxil), a top Ivy League research institution, and the government agency designed to protect the public – conflicted relationships that may have compromised the health and safety of vulnerable children.
Side Effects also explores the controversy over drugs used to treat clinical depression, with a special focus on Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. The book provides evidence of medical researchers "skewing results on behalf of pharmaceutical companies" that pay for the studies; pharmaceutical companies "marketing medicines without adequately disclosing adverse impacts;" and government agencies "unable or unwilling to adequately protect consumers," who sometimes die as a result.
Side Effects received the NASW Science in Society Award for 2009. In making the announcement, the judges said: "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. Her investigations led to changes in policy in many areas of public health, not only nationally but internationally."