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Liveblogging Primetime Outsiders

Aug 25 2009 | Comments 18

All the below is about this show.

Madigan: They didn’t flatter you with that lighting.

David Oaks: You’re looking so handsome! I had no idea. Your eyebrows are very sexy. (I’m completely sincere.)

“But critics worry …” That’s journalism-speak for “We don’t have any specific sources who say this, but we’ll generalize it so we have reason to focus on …”

… violence. That’s what they’re focusing on. Why am I not surprised?

So of all the things they could talk about related to Mad Pride — and related to mental health — this is what they’ve come up with: criminals and violent crime. Ugh. TV is so predictable and depressing.

Okay, so now we’re telling the story of a kid with hallucinations and delusions (the CIA, yadda yadda) who KILLS HIS MOTHER? Does the average American viewer understand how fucking rare this kind of thing is? That it’s not the necessary result of deciding not to take meds?

On to the withdrawal story: Clearly, the program wasn’t looking for a success story. This poor woman who decided to do the show so they could feed off her misery — I knew that’s what they wanted. Is she doing the withdrawal in conjunction with a doctor? Who the hell knows? The show doesn’t tell you. It hardly tells you her name. And …

Oh! There it is again: “Critics worry … ” (that she’s going to be “a time bomb” without her meds). Who are these critics worrying about this girl? Frank Rich? David Denby? I’d love to know.

“Violence is unpredictable with or without drugs.” Brilliant script.

Blurry homeless images. Madigan cello-ing. … This show is so bad, it’s like a joke. I guess it all goes back to what producer Ia Robinson told me, when we discussed my being on the show: She doesn’t have any friends or family who have mental problems, so the whole topic was like “walking on the moon.” Yes, that’s the phrase she used. The show should’ve been blasted out to Mars.

Except Joey P. He’s delightful and a voice of reason.

liz | 9:34 PM | SCHIZOPHRENIA, alternative treatments, bipolar disorder, celebrities, criminal justice system, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, philadelphia, side effects, stigma, suicide, violence

Just What We Need: Another Drug With Bad Side Effects

Jun 2 2009 | Comments 11

Is there no end to the amount of shit Big Pharma expects us to put up with? Literally?

Shares of Clinical Data Inc. (CLDA) rose after the last late-stage study on its treatment for major depressive disorder achieved the targets for efficacy and tolerance, clearing the way for the treatment’s new drug application to be filed later this year.

The biotechnology company jumped as much 14% Tuesday morning after saying its treatment, vilazodone, was generally well tolerated …

But the study also showed high rates of some side-effects, including diarrhea and nausea.

Biologic Investment Research analyst Kevin McNamara didn’t think the study was positive at all. He pointed to the high amount of patients who suffered from diarrhea – 31% – and nausea – 26% – saying the effectiveness of the treatment wouldn’t set it apart from the field.

“The incidence of diarrhea is outrageous, that’s the only groundbreaking thing about this study,” McNamara said. “There just is not another place in the market [for vilazodone].”

Clinical Data, which wasn’t immediately available for comment, pointed out in its release that only one patient out of 240 left the study because of diarrhea while three quit because of nausea.

And with two positive Phase III studies now in the books, Clinical Data says it should file its new drug application for vilazodone by the end of the year.

Clinical Data Rises On Study Results For New Antidepressant

liz | 4:14 PM | depression, meds, side effects

Voulez Vous Texté Avec Moi, Ce Soir?

May 26 2009 | Comments 0

One time I found a guy’s cell phone on the pavement and I wanted to return it to him. So I looked to see who he’d last called and easily found someone to contact. But then … my curiosity got the better of me. Here in my hand I had someone’s life in miniature, and yes, I looked at his photos.

I guess I thought maybe he had a cat and there’d be photos of his cat. If someone found my phone they’d see photos of my hamster (R.I.P., Popcorn), my sugar gliders and my dog. So why not have a quick Cute Fix? What I found on the phone was all porn. Raunchy porn of men doing things to other men, with closeups. Still photos, mind you. Which made me feel so guilty. I mean, what kind of monster was I? Violating someone’s privacy that way? It was terrible. It vitiated the Good Samaritan vibe I felt when I went to the guy’s house to return his phone. I shamefully handed it over. I wanted to apologize, as well as say, “Your life looks a hell of a lot more fun than mine is.”

Random story, I know. But the world of cell phones is so interesting. The first cell phone my family had was huge. Not quite this bad, but close.

Nowadays, they’re slim and chic and people have porn on them. But there are perils, especially for the mental health of the American adolescent. Take this excerpt from a recent New York Times article:

American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation. …

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Michael Hausauer, a psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., said teenagers had a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.

“Texting can be an enormous tool,” he said. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”

liz | 10:25 AM | anxiety, children, media, random, side effects

Would You Like to Rub My Brain?

May 5 2009 | Comments 8

Don’t answer that. I got an email from Maiken Scott, behavioral health reporter for WHYY, the PBS affiliate in Philly. She wrote:

Last year, I met with Dr. John O’Reardon, a U Penn scientist who invited me to cover a new treatment for severe depression as it develops and undergoes scientific testing. This approach is called DBS, or Deep Brain Stimulation. It is already being used successfully in the treatment of symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. O’Reardon is passionate about helping people with treatment-resistant depression, and he cares deeply about his patients. Yesterday, I was in the OR at Pennsylvania Hospital, and watched the procedure. I had previously met with the patient. Her name is Tara, she is 50 and has suffered with depression for almost 40 years – we spoke at length before her surgery. I have started to file stories and we’re covering this as it develops both on air and on the web. I plan to follow her for the rest of the year, as she recovers and as scientists learn whether this treatment will bring her relief.

Sounds very interesting to me, and Maiken is a really good reporter. Check it out here.

liz | 1:18 PM | alternative treatments, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, side effects

Is Driving a Civil Rights Issue?

May 5 2009 | Comments 12

Thanks to Joe for sending me this article about a man who wanted a driver’s license despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia. In my experience in community mental health, getting a driver’s license was basically impossible with such a diagnosis; psychiatrists didn’t want to sign the paperwork allowing a person to apply for a license. It was something that distressed me to no end. When I reported the problem to the city authorities, they were appropriately appalled. But nothing changed. A man would go in, ask for a signature that would allow him to simply take a permit test, and be rejected. Yet at the same time he was being told not to define himself by his diagnosis; what a mixed message. He was being told he could recover and lead a “normal” life. But what kind of life is it without being “allowed” to drive?

What made me angry is that I know plenty of incompetent drivers who shouldn’t be on the road, and they don’t suffer from mental illness. I also know drivers who have severe mental illnesses who acquit themselves quite admirably on the roadways (myself included). It’s a violation, in my opinion, of a person’s civil rights to prevent them from applying to get a license.

One woman who did get approval was empowered by it. She failed the permit test again and again, but it never ceased to be a goal, which fit in with the messages given by the community health center: Make sure the clients set goals for themselves; it gives them hope. Perhaps it was an unrealistic goal for her. I don’t think she’ll ever drive. But it was the trying that mattered, and if she ever gets behind the wheel, I hope she drives far away into the sunset with a great song on the radio. Just for fun.

A Guy, a Car: Beyond Schizophrenia by Ronald Pies M.D.

liz | 9:01 AM | DISABILITY, SCHIZOPHRENIA, bipolar disorder, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, side effects, stigma

No Shit. Really?

Apr 9 2009 | Comments 4

Did you ever see Broadcast News — and the scene where Albert Brooks is giving info to Holly Hunter for the nightly newscast over the phone? He’s bitter because he’s not the anchor; William Hurt is. But he does want the news to make sense, so he calls Hunter, who’s the producer, to give her a tip on how to cover a story. Within seconds, he hears William Hurt say exactly what he said, and he comments ruefully, to himself: “I say it here and it comes out there.”

For some reason that line comes to me sometimes, in childish I-told-you-so situations. So when I read the AP article titled: “Panel: Seroquel not 1st choice for depression,” I thought of that line. If Philip Dawdy saw the movie, he probably thought of that line too.

Of course Seroquel doesn’t work for depression. It’s an antipsychotic, people. It was created to treat schizophrenia, which — despite Big Pharma’s craven desires — IS NOT THE SAME AS DEPRESSION.

Here are some relevant tidbits, including some deliciousness about Seroquel causing diabetes. I went a little crazy with the bolds:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health experts said overwhelmingly Wednesday that the side effects of AstraZeneca’s schizophrenia drug Seroquel are too worrisome to make it a first choice against depression.

However, the panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers also said the drug could be useful as a supplemental therapy for patients who are not finding relief with other antidepressant drugs.

Seroquel, which posted sales of $4.5 billion last year, is already approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Now the London-based drugmaker wants the FDA to approve it for patients with depression and anxiety disorder, a much larger population that includes more than 20 million U.S. patients.

But FDA regulators expressed concerns about allowing nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population to use a drug with side effects including weight gain, high blood sugar and potential heart problems.

Panelists voted unanimously that the drug was not safe enough for use as a first choice, stand-alone treatment of depression and anxiety disorder, given older, more established drugs.

I saw no clear advantage demonstrated in efficacy,” said Dr. Wayne Goodman, an NIH researcher who chaired the panel. “There were side effects, and I would expect unintended consequences associated with wide-scale use of the drug.”

FDA is not required to follow the advice of its panels, though it usually does.

Seroquel is part of a new generation of psychiatric medications, called atypical antipsychotics, thought to be safer than older medications. But a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year found that patients taking newer medications have the same likelihood of dying of a sudden heart problem. The study from researchers at the Vanderbilt University found there were about three deaths per year for every 1,000 patients taking older or newer antipsychotics.

“Our study provides evidence that this drug may produce a side effect that is of extreme concern to patients,” said Vanderbilt’s Dr. Wayne Ray, who was invited by the FDA to present his findings.

Many physicians already prescribe Seroquel and other antipsychotic medications to manage depression and anxiety. But FDA approval would allow AstraZeneca to market its powerful antipsychotic for those uses.

The company said there is a significant need for new depression treatments, pointing out that the disease returns in a third of patients treated with existing antidepressants. Many patients stop using the drugs due to side effects like insomnia, sweating and decreased sex drive.

Largely absent from the panel’s discussion was the ongoing debate about Seroquel’s possible role in contributing to diabetes, a controversy that has generated thousands of lawsuits against AstraZeneca in recent years.

However, more than a dozen members of the public — including spouses of patients who died while taking the drug — called on the FDA panel to deny approval of Seroquel for depression, with many citing its metabolic side effects.

“It is your job to keep Seroquel off the market for this expanded use unless the company can conclusively prove that it does not increase the risk of diabetes,” said Dr. Diana Zuckerman of the National Research Center for Women and Families.

Lawyers representing some 15,000 former Seroquel users claim AstraZeneca knew nearly a decade ago that the drug caused diabetes, but kept that information secret.

A brief released by the plaintiffs attorneys Wednesday morning claims that internal AstraZeneca memos and data show Seroquel is both risky and not very effective.

One study showed Seroquel was not effective against depression but a comparator drug was. Several other studies of Seroquel failed to prove that depression symptoms stopped or waned significantly by six weeks, according to the brief.

liz | 2:36 PM | BIG PHARMA, SCHIZOPHRENIA, depression, meds, side effects

AstraZeneca, Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

Feb 17 2009 | Comments 11

Joe, who continues to make me look bad by knowing more than I do, sent me a link to an article about AstraZeneca from the St. Petersburg Times, which is (and this calls for all caps) ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE:

AstraZeneca, maker of the blockbuster anti­psychotic Seroquel, is battling to keep information about the drug out of the public’s view … for the public’s own good.

This month in Orlando, lawyers for the drugmaker will argue that unsealing company documents, including unpublished clinical trial data and letters from the FDA, could harm “a vulnerable patient population.”

“This (disclosure) could jeopardize public safety by causing confusion and alarm in patients, who may then discontinue their medication without seeking the guidance of a medical professional,” lawyers for the drugmaker said in a recent filing in federal court.

This is utter and complete bullshit. AstraZeneca is running scared from revelations that could turn them into another Eli Lilly, so they’re inventing this ridiculous excuse to pretend they’re protecting People Like Us from learning the truth about their meds. To be clear: That’s the premise here—that I’m so mentally unstable that I can’t handle the truth.

So better to keep me in the dark about the dangers of my medication, otherwise I might run out and shoot people or jump off a building or something.

I am outraged by this. The article, by Times staff writer Kris Hundley, breaks it down further and examines all the issues. It also says, “The company said it is aware that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia is investigating Seroquel’s marketing practices, most likely based on whistle blower complaints.” I’ll try to get more information on that if I can.

Seroquel maker wants to seal info from you, “for” you

liz | 10:00 AM | BIG PHARMA, meds, side effects

Hair and Gone

Jan 29 2009 | Comment 1

I just had to use that headline. Or how about, “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”? Or “Hair and Now”? Tara Murtha, I’m looking at you.

Joe writes to us about another pharma boon. He sent me this article, from Here’s the part that matters to us:

Many psychiatric drugs have hair loss [side effects]. Prozac has that as a side effect. Almost every one of them, if you read the literature. Unfortunately, the amount of ignorance among physicians in dealing with hair loss is massive, so there are very few doctors who really understand the process and they tend to evade the questions that are posed to them.

Joe was very funny in response:

I guess some marketing wonk could spin this side effect into a benefit, “This medication also saves consumers, who are disproportionately poor, the costs normally associated with hair care thus freeing their funds to enjoy the full life that this medication has long engendered.”

I wish that were a stretch. I really do.

liz | 3:02 PM | meds, side effects