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Let Them Eat Prozac

by David Healy

Pharmaceutical companies are among the most powerful corporations in the world. So it’s unusual to hear a critical voice coming from within the medical community. David Healy, a highly regarded university professor and psychiatrist, became an unlikely outsider as a result of questions he raised about the adverse effects of the anti-depressant drug Prozac.

Let Them Eat Prozac chronicles Healy’s journey through the labyrinth politics, litigation, and corporate manipulation that plague the worlds of medical journals and academia. Healy came into the gunsights of drug manufacturers when he started to ask basic questions about how Prozac seemed to be leading to suicide and acts of homicidal rage in some patients. His subsequent research revealed that Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly, aware of such evidence, was doing nothing about it.

Some 50-plus lawsuits later, Prozac is still on the market and Healy, who had won a prestigious appointment at the University of Toronto, suddenly had his job cancelled at the behest, many believe, of corporate funders who were uncomfortable with his whistle blowing.

Healy is no left-wing conspiracy theorist, but rather a respected player in the field who supports the use of electroconvulsive therapy and anti-depressant drugs, and who is highly critical of the psychiatric survivor movement. He shares views in common with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.

The well-documented study presents a thorough history of the development of anti-depressant drugs. While the text sometimes gets bogged down in scientific details, Healy uses the technical information to highlight the faulty science of many clinical trials.

Reading at times like a John Grisham novel, Healy takes us through the litigation in a number of cases and the corporate machinations designed to shield the pharmaceutical conglomerates from responsibility. The book represents a significant wake-up call for which Healy receives no personal benefit: he’s donating his proceeds to a fund for academic freedom.