What drug companies don’t tell you

And you might wish you had known

If you still need a Christmas present for someone who enjoys a good thriller, or are looking for a treat for yourself, a new novel called Malcharist1 could make an excellent choice. Not only does it rip along at a cracking pace but its plotline is relevant to all of us: it exposes unsavoury shenanigans at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry.

The drugs that feature in Malcharist, set in the US, are re-purposed antidepressants, with a known lethal side effect being cleverly disguised to dupe the organisation tasked with licensing new pharmaceutical products.

Why is the plot (dramatic licence though it takes) relevant to all of us? Because millions of people take antidepressants, or know someone who does, not only for depression or anxiety but also for uncomfortable states such as sadness, shyness, agitation or embarrassment that result from emotional needs not being met, rather than an illness. These drugs have also been prescribed for pain, sleep disorders, urological, gastroenterological and gynaecological conditions, and more, whether with evidence of effectiveness or not. And they have far greater potential side effects and withdrawal effects than has been acknowledged till recently.2

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