invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

zyprexa: a killer drug January 7, 2007

Filed under: antipsychotics,mental illness,stigma — clementine @ 8:22 pm
Tags: , , , ,

most of the alex berenstein articles confirmed what i know to be true about the pharmaceutical companies. i nodded my head frequently while reading them, exclaiming frequently…hell yes, thank you, etc. my complaints and fears about the antipsychotics were finally right there on the front page of the new york times. i was excited.

until i read this article.

it deeply saddened me. and terrified me. i think most functioning people with a mental illness share the same fear- one day we will completely lose our mind. it’s a scary thought and yet you can’t deny the possibility. we’ve all had so many ups and downs and often wonder if that final breaking point is around the corner. one day, we’ll snap, just like that. and we’ll end up living with our parents, no longer able to function.

that is exactly what happened to john eric kauffman. unfortunately in his case, his mother outlived him. he died at the age of 41. his mother believes that the weight he gained while on zyprexa contributed to the heart disease that killed him.

zyprexa was taken by about two million people worldwide last year. the drug was approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. zyprexa’s side effects: severe weight gain, increased blood sugar and cholesterol. all risk factors for heart disease. a lawyer who represents mentally ill patients turned over documents that show eli lilly, which makes zyprexa, has sought for a decade to play down those side effects. even though its own clinical trials show the drug causes 16 percent of the patients who take zyprexa to gain more than 66 pounds after a year.

john’s life mirrored my life. we both played soccer. we both struggled with bipolar and the symptoms of the illness. we both fought the illness, always aware of our struggles and not willing to give up. he graduated college after his first breakdown, i got a job in the business i dreamed of working in shortly after my stay in a hospital. and then, we both gained a tremendous amount of weight after prescribed an antipsychotic. i gained 10 pounds a month. john gained a total of 80. john’s favorite book was “Catch-22,” and his favorite moment in life was a soccer game in which he had made 47 saves. one of my favorite moments, my hat trick in the first half of a soccer game years ago.

john wished to receive a masters in political science but found trying to work while attending school was more stressful than he could handle. he suffered his most severe psychotic breakdown in 1992 and never completely recovered. he never worked again. from 1992 to 2000, he suffered no psychotic breakdowns, according to his mother. during that period, he took lithium. and then a brief switch to depakote. he quit that med and he became paranoid. while institutionalized he was put on high dose of zyprexa. it left him severely sedated, hardly able to talk, his mother said.

“He was so tired and he slept so much,” Ms. Beik said. “He loved Shakespeare, and he was an avid reader in high school. At the end of his life, it was so sad, he couldn’t read a page.”

his therapist said, “he was intelligent enough to have the sense that his life hadn’t panned out in a normal fashion,” “he always reminded me of a person standing outside a house with a party going on, looking at it.” i cried when i read this. anyone with a mental illness knows this feeling. and it’s a horrible feeling. horrible.

eli lilly and company, in response to the story, said they were saddened by Mr. Kauffman’s death. and then added, “Zyprexa is a lifesaving drug.” they blame his sedentary lifestyle and his smoking. their drug leads many to a sedentary lifestyle and they know it.

eli lilly now faces federal and state investigations about the way it marketed zyprexa. this goes beyond marketing. i would call it murder. last year, lilly paid $700 million to settle 8,000 lawsuits from people who said they had developed diabetes or other diseases after taking zyprexa. a few days ago they settled 18,000 cases for $500 million dollars. pennies in comparison to the billions they’ve made off this drug.

i’ve thrown away most of the photographs taken of me during my antipsychotic days. i was unrecognizable and my eyes were dead. these days my eyes are full of life. and i wish, more than anything right now, john could tear up his photographs. i wish my grandmother could tear up her photographs. but thanks to big pharma, they cannot. somewhere in those photographs there was a photo of me shaking my dog’s paw, just like john. i remember looking into her eyes, so full of life. and i wished i was her. i no longer wanted my life. i wanted the life of my dog.

my thoughts and prayers are with john’s mother, Millie Beik, and his family.


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