invincible summers

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

antipsychotics and oprah on bipolar September 25, 2007

In what some are calling ZyprexaGate…another state is bringing forth a lawsuit against Eli Lilly, Janssen and Astra Zeneca for a marketing scheme involving the antipsychotics Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel. To date, nine states are suing antipsychotic makers. Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia are suing Eli Lilly regarding Zyprexa. Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania are suing Janssen regarding Risperdal. Pennsylvania and South Carolina are also suing AstraZeneca regarding Seroquel. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is planning a lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies, you guessed it… Eli Lilly, Janssen and AstraZeneca.

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

McDaniel said the companies engaged in a “marketing scheme that was very effective to where a drug that was never approved by the [federal Food and Drug Administration ] for children… the elderly… or run of the mill behavioral disorders like depression, all of a sudden was touted to America’s doctors, Arkansas ’ doctors, as a miracle drug. So, a child that has [attention deficit disorder ] is taking a drug that was never authorized for that child, causing serious complications… that could last a lifetime.”

He said the state Medicaid program has spent $200 million on those drugs over the last eight years and, under Arkansas’ Medicaid fraud law, the state could collect three times that much.

These antipsychotics are being prescribed for everything from depression to anorexia to bipolar and they’re just making us sicker. I am not a doctor but I do have firsthand experience with one these medications and twenty years of experience living with a mental illness. It’s quite obvious to me these drugs should be used in extreme cases or short term. We know that these drugs have killed more than 6,000 people. If this isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.

Yesterday Oprah Winfrey dedicated her show to bipolar. I rarely watch the show but happened to stumble upon this episode. Unfortunately it was already fifteen minutes in and I missed the segment on the Andrea Petrosky case. Oprah spent the last 3/4 of her show talking with a soap opera star (Maurice Benard) and an actress (Jenifer Lewis) both diagnosed with bipolar. They talked about their manic moments, breakdowns and dark days. Kay Redfield Jameson (author of An Unquiet Mind) was there but Oprah spent very little time with her talking about the illness at issue.

My problem with this episode is simple. Oprah’s show is viewed by more than 40 million people. If her book club is any indicator, when Oprah talks, people listen. And when you have that many people listening, you need to do the research. I heard Oprah use the word “crazy” at least once. There was a lot of laughter. What she should have done was shed light on a very serious illness and the stigma that still exists today in a way that educates people. People need to be educated and we don’t need a few actors talking about their manic moments. After the show I checked out the message boards. The subject heading read—Did Bipolar Disorder Drive a Mother to Kill Her Child? As I type there are 195 comments. Surprisingly (or maybe not so) many of the people were asking questions like, “how can I get help if I’m not rich like your guests? The focus quickly moved from the Petrosky case to parents wondering if their child might be bipolar, comments like these were filling up the pages:

How did you KNOW your child had more problems? What “gut instict” told you so? I think I’m feeling the same way but can’t put my finger on it…what meds have helped you guys?

One woman at the message board suggested parents check out the book, “The Bipolar Child”. Now, this frightens me. Oprah.com averages 70 million page views and more than 6 million users per month. My fear is (and I hope I’m incorrect) parents will rush their child to the family doctor and ask if Susie or Danny is bipolar. They’ll quote from books, the Oprah message boards and possibly their child’s daycare teachers, all whom seem to think, yes dear, your little guy is probably bipolar. They’ll say, doctor, what kinds of treatments are available? And next thing you know little Susie’s on 600mg of Seroquel. And oh my is she better! She’s not throwing tantrums every ten minutes. She’s so well-behaved in public! She’s stopped biting the other kids at daycare. They’ll forget to mention she’s gained 30 pounds and she rarely speaks.

If I seem a bit sarcastic and bitter it’s because I am. I’ve read too many cases like Rebecca Riley’s . There will be an upcoming Oprah show airing on October 4th in which Sinead O’Conner will talk about her bipolar, maybe Oprah will get it right this time.

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2 Responses to “antipsychotics and oprah on bipolar”

  1. PrincessMoon Says:

    When I was in middle school I was put on antipsychotics for anxiety. I was put on Risperdal, Seroquel and Abilify. The side effects were horrible. I remember in middle school I was put on Risperdal and it sedated me so I became really quiet in class and all the teachers said I was doing “great” because I was no longer talking in class, I was quiet, meanwhile, my anxiety was intense as ever but my parents said the Risperdal was great for me and kept me on it for eight months, because they assumed that since I was quiet and wasn’t acting anxious I was cured, the truth was, I was more anxious than ever, but I became very quiet and couldn’t communicate well. The only reason they took me off it was because the Risperdla made me stop getting my period. The Abilify gave me Akathisia, a movement disorder. The side effects of the anti psychotics were awful. I was on them on and off in middle school and high school. I’m off them now but still remember the experience.

  2. kim Says:

    stories like yours deeply sadden and anger me. i don’t know why i’m shocked because i know the statistics. i know how many children, teens and adults are over-medicated.

    your symptoms were classic antipsychotic symptoms- especially the numbness. i used to call myself a walking zombie when i was taking Seroquel a few years ago.

    i am so happy to hear you are med-free and may i suggest you check out this link:
    http://beyondmeds.ning.com/

    my best to you…


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