Incredibly busy

I do the bulk of my blogging at work and since I’m incredibly busy, I’m falling behind on posting about many issues. I’m also not keeping up on reading other blogs in the interim. A few blogs I recommend keeping up on:

  • Furious Seasons and CLPsych: both are writing about the whole Paxil/Seroxat deal that’s developing
  • CorePsych: Some great podcasts and updates on ADD.
  • Graham’s Blog: Keeping up on withdrawal effects from medications, especially Effexor.

I’ve also been busy at night so if I don’t reply right away to an e-mail, I’m ignoring it. I don’t have access to personal e-mail at work (I think I’ve said this before) and as a result, can’t respond until late at night (depending on how busy my night is).

My busy season runs on the accounting season schedule: January through May. Not too many multiple updates (except perhaps on some weekends) until after that.

~M

P.S. But I’ve got some awesome pictures on the Abilify phone booth that I have to share this week. And ooh, boy, do I have some things to rip on Joel Osteen about, i.e. "Choosing To Be Happy."

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Puppy of the Week

Mind Over Matter

Liz Spikol linked to this and I had to comment on my blog about it.

An essay piece by D. Paul Reilly in the Nassau Guardian (Bahamas paper) focuses on evangelist John Hagee’s sermon, “How To Get Rid of Depression.”

“And then Pastor John Hagee said one of the most important phrases I’ve ever heard, which actually catapulted me into recovery from my ‘Self-induced’ depression. John Hagee said ‘You can get rid of your depression the moment you decide to.’ Wow! What a moment of truth that was!”

Indeed.

“Now, lest I get some Medical Doctors, some Psychiatrists e-mailing me about my comments here today, let me add that there are indeed some people who may have inborn chemical deficiencies in the brain which can cause depression. These types of individuals do perhaps need medication to replace the chemicals which they are lacking. However, in the majority of cases, it really is a matter of ‘Mind over matter.’ Whether we realize it at the time, because of some traumatic event in our life, we became very angry. We then turned that anger inward, which manifested itself in the outer world as depression.”

I do agree with his point that much of depression in many people is psychological and not some “chemical imbalance.” CLPsych argues frequently against the theory. But that doesn’t mean it’s not clinical, lifelong, or ongoing. (That was probably redundant.) The prescription for the cure:

“As Pastor John Hagee so correctly said, "We can get rid of depression the moment we decide to." Of course, God will assist us tremendously with the process, once we have made the conscious decision to be happy once again. Professional Counseling [sic] can also be beneficial when we are experiencing depression.”

This may be the case for some people, but for others, it’s impossible to just wake up one day and say, “Gee, today I’m not going to be depressed!” Unless you’re a celebrity Beyonce or Angelina Jolie.

People need to wage war against clinical depression. There are some days when they’ll win the battle; other days, they’ll have a string of defeats. But short-lived victories don’t mean depression is gone. I like to say it’s “in remission” — still there but not currently active. For some people, the heavy black cloud just never goes away.

I believe in God performing miracles. God can change anything whenever He wants to. He can choose to lift the veil of depression on one person while allowing someone else to suffer. I can’t explain why He chooses one person over someone else. All I know is that He’s capable of doing that. But for a person to essentially “snap out” of it, I don’t buy. Meds can help a person, but divine intervention and/or counseling help a whole lot more.

They're fuzzy

A comic strip today celebrating the loveliness of puppies and why pups belong on a blog for mental illness.

Comic

What a relaxing way to start the day!

Barbaro.

It was a horse. Stop beating a dead horse.

Hypomanic Watch

Brainstorm Your Way Out of a Bad Mood

Feeling down? Think fast – literally. A recent study from Princeton and Harvard found that when people were made to brainstorm rapidly, they felt happier, more energized, and more creative. "It’s like taking your mind for a run," saus Emily Pronin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton. Test it yourself: Quickly come up with 20 ways to improve your health, or speed-read the newspaper and watch your mood soar. – Shape, February 2007

Sounds like a plan for hypomanics.

Blog worth checking out

Holly Finch’s blog “Am I Still Me?” is worth taking a look at. She was a survivor in the London bombing that occurred on July 7, 2005 and as a result, blogs about her daily life while suffering from PTSD.

She recently blogged about coming off citalopram (U.S. trademark name: Celexa) and is experiencing some awful withdrawal effects. This makes me glad that I skipped Celexa in the hospital before I met my doctor. He recommended Effexor instead.

Not that it makes a difference really. I just had the privilege of not having two withdrawal symptoms in succession.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

As much as I hate to admit it, the Scientologists have a point.

A group linked to Scientology staged a protest near a school after a student on psychiatric drugs stabbed a classmate to death. The point of the protest was to highlight “the dangers of antidepressants.”

“Several Scientologists held signs that mentioned by name John Odgren, the teen accused in the fatal stabbing. Signs included slogans such as “What psychiatric drugs was John Odgren prescribed?” and “Stop combining drugs to make walking time bombs.”

Odgren, 16, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, and according to his attorney was taking several prescription medications at the time of the stabbing. Odgren lived in Princeton but attended a special education program at L-S.”

I didn’t know that psychiatric drugs made people homicidal. I guess if they can make people suicidal then homicidal isn’t that far off.

“’There’s a lot of concern around the country when kids are becoming violent on psychiatric drugs,’ said Kevin Hall, the Scientology group’s New England director.”

Concern from who? This is probably something I should look into. See my favorite quote below:

“This is not a serious request by a serious group,” said School Committee Chairman Mark Collins on the demand that Odgren’s medical records be made public.”

Ouch. Scientology dismissed in one sentence.

UPDATE: Psychiatry drugs supposedly have no violent effect on children. But there are two sides to the debate.

Version 1 —

“Though the Food and Drug Administration currently includes a warning, called a ‘black box warning,’ on SSRIs stating studies have shown increased risk of suicide, particularly among teens and children, [John Fromson, chair of the psychiatry department at MetroWest Medical Center] said there are no studies which show the drugs cause violence toward others.

‘Violence is a social issue here,’ he said. ‘Illicit street drugs can do that…but to make a connection between medication that’s prescribed for legitimate reasons and at appropriate doses and violence – the scientific evidence just isn’t there.'” [emphasis mine]

Version 2 —

“Advocates like Lisa Van Syckel, however, insist the drugs can lead to violence, because they’ve seen it firsthand.

Van Syckel’s anti-depressant ordeal began seven years ago, when her then- 15-year-old daughter Michelle was prescribed the SSRI Paxil for depression and anorexia.

Over the next year, Van Syckel said, she attacked her brother, she viciously attacked three police officers, she went after another student with a baseball bat and she cut the word ‘die’ into her abdomen.

After nearly a year on the medication, doctors changed Michelle’s diagnosis to Lyme disease, and gradually weaned the teen off the drugs, and Van Syckel said Michelle has been herself ever since.”

Perhaps the scientific evidence isn’t there because clinical studies don’t track adolescents long enough to determine whether a propensity toward violence to others significantly increases.


A Mexican man who tried to commit suicide became a victim of police homicide. (Weird.) He threw himself on the train tracks in the Mexico City subway and was eventually rescued by station employees. After two policemen took him into custody, they allegedly beat him to death inside their patrol car. It’s so sad that this man had a second chance at life and two stupid policemen took it away.


I didn’t know this was possible:

“A 23-year-old man who sold a lethal cocktail of drugs as “suicide pills” on the Internet was sentenced by a court in Germany on Wednesday to three years and nine months in prison. The man pleaded guilty to 16 counts of the illegal sale of pharmaceuticals, a spokesman for the court in Wuppertal said.”

Wow. Who does a Google search for “suicide cocktail” or “lethal drug cocktails”? Isn’t it easier (and cheaper) to do it the old-fashioned ways: crash a car, hanging, jumping off a bridge…? Not advocating suicide, but I don’t understand why people need to pay for suicide. Maybe they’re wussies like me. But that’s what overdosing on pills is for.  The Captain Obvious quote of the day:

“Suicide and assisting suicide are not illegal in Germany.”

Maybe I should move to Germany. (KIDDING. Just kidding. Sort of.)


50 Cent’s producer Disco D (Dave Shayman) killed himself on January 23. Although not much is known about his death, there is speculation that Disco D had bipolar disorder.

“DJ Vlad, a good friend of D, was shocked upon hearing the news.

‘Disco D was a good friend of mine. I lived with him in Brazil for a couple weeks. He was a real artist,’ Vlad revealed. ‘I just talked to him a few days ago, and he told me things were hard. I tried to cheer him up. I didn’t realize how hard it really was. I’m devastated right now.’”

No one really knows how difficult it is for someone struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts unless you’ve been there.


An article from IHT details interesting research that Harvard’s McLean Hospital is conducting to find out more about genetic schizophrenia.

“Consider, said Deborah Levy, the lab’s director: ‘The incidence of schizophrenia is stable at about 1 percent, and schizophrenics have very low reproductive rates. So what is keeping those genes going? One hypothesis is that most of the people carrying the schizophrenia genes are not the patients. Rather, they are some of the well parents and well siblings, most of whom never show signs of the illness.’”

Hmm. Is that why I’m an only child?

“The effects of such genes may show up in a variety of subtle ways, they say – including faulty eye-tracking and asymmetry in facial features so hard to detect that it is best measured by highly specialized 3-D cameras.

At Levy’s lab, people with schizophrenia and their relatives undergo 10 to 12 hours of tests. … The faces are measured in minute detail by Curtis Deutsch, a genetics expert who focuses on facial variations and their links to various diseases. … So, subtle abnormalities in the shape and layout of a face may reflect specific abnormalities in brain structure, he said. Thus far, he said, he has found that some schizophrenics do have certain minor facial anomalies – none of them visible to the naked eye – as do some of their healthy relatives.”

So it’s possible that facial features and movements could provide a clue to schizophrenic genes or perhaps increased risk for schizophrenia. The article’s pretty interesting. Go read the rest of it.

Article Analysis – “Breaking it down: Mental health and the African community”

Liz Spikol linked to this article back in December and as a Black American with West Indian heritage (and by default, African and French), I couldn’t resist commenting.

Author Morenike Fasuyi blasts the United Kingdom’s mental health system as being less than inadequate for Africans. I don’t doubt it.

I do wonder about Fasuyi’s seemingly sheer hatred for anyone of European descent (in America, we’d refer to them as “white” or “Caucasian”). The article seethes with anger.

“The general consensus suggests that African people have to work twice as hard as their european counterparts in every aspect of our social, cultural and economical existence in order to make ends meet.”

This also is the case for Black Americans.

Fasuyi explains how she’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but says her disorder is mainly triggered by things related to Africa: “slavery, politics, oppression.” Her turning point was on May 1, 2004 when “it was as if [her] ancestors called” upon her and “removed the scales from her eyes.” She refers to Karl Marx when speaking about “groups” – Africans – who are oppressed and eventually rise up and lead a revolution. In addition, she believes the numbers 7 and 9 relate to the African people and that 2007 could be the year when “division within the African community” would be “homogenized[d]… to effect change.”

As a Black American, I know that African people truly value their ancestors and even practice ancestry worship. This is where I believe she is coming from. To any other nationality, Fasuyi is crazy (no pun intended). It wouldn’t surprise me if her mental health status file read, “bipolar disorder with psychosis.” Not knowing about African ancestry worship can make any doctor of non-African nationality misdiagnose Fasuyi. To be able to accurately help her, she must be accurately understood.

She asked for an African psychiatrist who might have a cultural understanding of where she was coming from. She mentions this was a slow process since “there [were] hardly any.” She also asked for an African social worker but was given “an insensitive male european (sic) social worker who adversely affected my health with his actions, racist remarks and incompetence.”

She takes a nice jab at Big Pharma and pharma reps, too:

“Maintaining you within the system keeps consultants in their jobs and increases the profit of the pharmaceutical industry, which has a turnover of billions.”

Zyprexa; Cymbalta, anyone?

Read the rest of this entry »

Little or no updates today

This weekend was busy and today will be busy as well. No real updates today except for a scheduled post. There’s always a possibility if things slow down around here.

Also — I’m a little slow at responding to e-mails as well. I don’t have access to personal e-mail at work so I’ll be answering e-mails tonight. I apologize for the delay.

~ M

Depression Checklist

The following is brought to you by Eli Lilly:

depression checklist

Depression hurts. But you don’t have to.” Feel free to check Furious Seasons’ post featuring YouTube videos on Eli Lilly’s latest depression campaign.

Quote of the Week

"Principles are utterly useless if you don’t act upon them." – Philip Dawdy, Furious Seasons

Saturday Stats

"Suicide took the lives of 30,622 people in 2001." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Neuronetics TMS at the mercy of FDA's PMS

Today just wasn’t a good day for Neuronetics.

After the long-awaited hearing date for FDA approval, Neuronetics’ TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) device got shut down. Hard.

As I’d previously mentioned, CLPsych immediately reported the outcome of the FDA hearing. A juicy quote from a report he linked to:

"The majority of the panel—made up of an engineer, several psychiatrists and neurologists, and a statistician—had no problem with rTMS’s risks. There are almost none. The biggest worry with it is that it might accidentally spark a seizure, but that did not happen even once out of the 155 patients treated. The problem was that Neuronetics couldn’t prove any benefit. Treated patients got a little better, but so did those patients that underwent a sham treatment."

Cool. Placebos work just as well as the cure.

Bloggers are mental health watchdogs

Seattlest wrote a piece on Philip Dawdy and how he’s been tracking the story of a cop who was fired for being bipolar despite several years of stellar service on the force. I can’t investigate things to the depth that he can, but Seattlest has an awesome quote that I had to use here:

"It’s great that Dawdy has stepped up for a huge, mainly voiceless population, but on the other hand, it’s weird to see citizen journalists so responsible for watchdogging our mental health industry. When we hear newspapers complain about declining readership, we can’t help but think it’s mainly because — gosh, this is awkward — the shit they’re reporting on isn’t newsworthy. And this shit is." [emphasis all mine]

With the exception of the NYT, no one else IS monitoring the mental health industry for abuse of power. It’s pretty sad that organizations like NIH and NIMH, which are supposed to be helping patients, can be bought out. Can the mental health bloggers take down Big Pharma like the political bloggers took down, uh, well… Dan Rather?

PharmaGossip tackles antipsychotics meds

Nice post by PharmaGossip on antipsychotics:

"Some newer antipsychotic medications approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are being prescribed to millions of Americans for depression, dementia, and other psychiatric disorders without strong evidence that such off-label uses are effective, according to a new analysis by the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)." [emphasis kinda mine]

The rest of the post is quite informative. Head on over there to read more.

Microsoft Word can help you commit suicide

A funny graphic courtesy of Graham’s Blog:

MS Word letter

Aw, have a sense of humor.

The Worst Things To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed: 11-20

This list is divided to have 10 of "The Worst Things To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed " published each week. To see the entire list: go here. The ones that apply to me are bolded.

11. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

12. "There are a lot of people worse off than you!"

13. "You have it so good, why aren’t you happy?"

14. "It’s a beautiful day!"

15. "You have so many things to be thankful for, why are you depressed!"

16. "What do you have to be depressed about?"

17. "Happiness is a choice."

18. "You think *you’ve* got problems…"

19. "Well, at least it’s not that bad."

20. "Maybe you should take vitamins for your stress."

Pessimists get heart disease while Lexapro's "better" than Cymbalta

If view the glass as half-empty, you may be at increased risk for heart disease. An essay, published via the NYT, explains the findings of a study.

"A study by researchers in the Netherlands has found that people who are temperamentally pessimistic are more likely to die of heart disease and other causes than those who are by nature optimistic."

While people with depression are at a higher risk for poor health, pessimists apparently are too.

"Dr. [Eric J.] Giltay and his colleagues found that subjects with the highest level of optimism were 45 percent less likely than those with the highest level of pessimism to die of all causes during the study.

For people who already have well-documented heart disease, depression increases the risk of death about threefold."

Dr. Richard A. Friedman, author of the essay, get to the heart (npi) of the matter: screen pessimists for depression.


CL Psych wrote about how Lexapro’s data beat Cymbalta’s data but in a semi-shady manner. My mind can’t comprehend all the scientific math and data behind this so feel free to read his post and ask him your questions.

intueri hits the spot

Oh. My. Goodness.

Abilify phone booth (side view)Intueri originally wrote the post about seeing Abilify on the side of a phone booth. I thought it was pretty funny and pretty stupid.

I still find it stupid, but even more so now.

I was on the bus heading to work today (I don’t normally take it) . When it reached a red light near the subway, I saw a telephone booth – akin to the one that you see on the right – draped in an Abilify ad. The ad is exactly what you see here. (If you can’t see it, go to Abilify.com and click on the “see our print adverisement!”)

I work near two major colleges with students who all have cell phones. Adults in the area are too busy thinking about their own problems while heading into the subway. (They, too, are likely to own cell phones.) Public telephones are rarely used anymore. So who’s going to read an ad on Abilify, let alone on a public telephone booth?

Some marketing person at Bristol-Myers Squibb probably thought it would be awesome to have an ad for Abilify near two major colleges. “All the college kids that walk by will see it!”

The readable text – from the bus, anyway – was “Treating bipolar disorder takes understanding.”

Understanding of what? Who’ll actually stand there and go, “Yeah, I need understanding” and walk right up to it to read more.

    • “where you’ve been
    • where you want to go
    • how you want to get there”

I’m ready to understand my history, my future, and the plans I should make. Uh-huh, Abilify will help me do that.

“Ask your doctor or health care professional if ABILIFY is right for you.” [emphasis mine]

The bus didn’t stay there long enough for me to see if they included the safety information, but here’s the gist of what they provide:

    • “Acute manic and mixed episodes associated with Bipolar I Disorder
    • Maintaining efficacy in patients with Bipolar I Disorder with a recent manic or mixed episode who had been stabilized and then maintained for at least 6 weeks “

Someone can explain the last part to me a little better? I’m a mixed-episode case, do I qualify for Abilify?

I was under the impression that Abilify (aripiprazole) is an atypical antipsychotic. Antipsychotics should be prescribed for those who have psychosis. (I may be wrong here; I’m still trying to figure out the difference between typical and atypicals.) I don’t have psychosis. I don’t need Abilify. But the few bipolar people who will read that ad – they’re likely to be homeless – will be misled into thinking that they need Abilify to help them. They’ll go their doctors, saying, “I’ve heard Abilify helps people with bipolar disorder, could I perhaps try it?” PCPs will immediately churn out prescriptions and uneducated psychiatrists (yes, they are out there despite their degrees) will say, “Sure, Abilify works for bipolar disorder. Let’s see if it works for you.” The smart psych would say, “I’m not sure if it would be right for you. It’s an atypical antipsychotic that targets Bipolar I patients who have symptoms of psychosis. Let’s try something else instead.”

So I went on my soapbox. Again. But it angers me to see:

    • An Abilify ad on a phone booth. Period.
    • A misleading advertisement geared to all people with bipolar disorder (it doesn’t specify until you get to the fine print) that says, “Try this; it may work for you.”
    • An advertisement for medication. At all.

What’s next? A marketing blitz by Eli Lilly? “Zyprexa doesn’t cause diabetes! Check out zyprexafacts.com for more information!”

Big Pharma never fails to surprise me.

"Do good, feel good!"

I occasionally read The Happiness Project and found something that may be somewhat helpful to temporarily relieve depression:

And who is made happiest by such an act of generosity? Me! This is
the heart of happiness, the fundamental truth that sounds like a
commercial for an Oprah episode. Nothing makes me happier than helping
someone else to be happy. Do good, feel good! Try it at home!

It sounds so priggish, but zoikes, it really does work.

I've blogged about this before, but again, it's something that only temporarily relieves clinical depression. Considering it taking a break from the symptoms of depression. However, the above will cure the likes of Angelina Jolie and Beyonce.

Awaiting FDA approval for TMS treatment

Neuronetics will find out today whether the FDA will approve its TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) device to treat depression. If I haven’t got the time, I’m sure CLPsych will get on this. I’d like to delve into this a bit more considering I live relatively close to the Malvern, Pa.-based company… (The journalist in me gets her hopes up for probably nothing.)

'Dr. Titrate's little helpers'

Even if it’s the last thing you do, please go read this. I can relate to this girl in many ways (unfortunately). It’s a long read, but well worth it. Choice quote:

"Stoked by Dr. Titrate’s little helpers [Adderall and Dextrostat], I hosted my own college radio show and called it “The ADD Hour.” Naturally, “The ADD Hour” lasted just nine minutes, and I played only the first eighteen seconds of every song."

Which brings me to another thought: no one calls ADHD ADD anymore. A Google search for "ADD" produced meager results. What gives?

2nd-generation Celexa, or TC-2216

Targacept is in the process of developing a “new class of [oral] drugs known as NNR (neuronal nicotinic receptor) Therapeutics.” They’re starting the first phase of a clinical trial called TC-2216 that targets depression and anxiety treatment.

“The trial is designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of TC-2216 and to assess its pharmacokinetic profile. The trial is a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, with sequential ascending single oral doses administered to healthy male volunteers.”

The next paragraph in the press release (basically) that I got this from goes on to explain that the new compound focuses in on the central nervous system and mood-regulating neurotransmitters, blah, blah, blah.

“In preclinical studies, TC-2216 showed greater potency than and anti-depressant effects comparable to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclics, which are commonly used treatments for depression, as well as anxiety-relieving effects.”

Because every new product in the clinical trial phase and has yet to receive FDA approval is better than everything currently out on the market. Of course.

“In November, the company announced positive top line results from a Phase II clinical trial of TRIDMAC, a treatment combination comprised of mecamylamine hydrochloride as an augmentation therapy to citalopram hydrobromide, in patients who did not respond adequately to citalopram alone. Mecamylamine hydrochloride binds non-selectively to various NNR subtypes, but there is a body of scientific evidence that suggests that its anti-depressant activity is derived through its antagonism at the alpha4beta2 NNR.”

What’s that mean? They’re basically working on Celexa II if people were treatment-resistant to the original Celexa. Like many other drug companies, they’re patenting a similar version of Celexa once Celexa’s eligible to become a generic brand.

“‘The results of our TRIDMAC trial not only substantiate the promise of the NNR mechanism in the treatment of depression and other mood disorders, but also further bolster our enthusiasm for the potential of TC-2216 said J. Donald deBethizy, Ph.D., Targacept’s President and Chief Executive Officer.’”

That’s a pretty bold statement for a company that’s just in Phase I of a clinical trial.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

A new Canadian study has found that most workers who struggled with depression had job performances were affected. (Nothing new here, right?)

“On average, the study says, depressed workers reported 32 days in the past year during which symptoms had resulted in ‘their being totally unable to work or carry out normal activities.’”

Seems like people really are taking ‘mental health’ days these days.


Bahrain is having a problem with Indians committing suicide in the country. In January, so far, three Indians have killed themselves. Triggers leading up to the suicides are theorized to be “mental or economic depression, stressful working conditions, low wages and poor housing.”


According to Dr. Brian Doyle, people with ADHD are at a higher risk for mood disorders such as major depressive disorder.

“In a recent study, 38.3% of individuals with a primary diagnosis of ADHD during the previous 12 months also had a mood disorder, compared with 5% of subjects who didn’t have ADHD.   The reverse is also true; individuals who have major depression are likelier to have ADHD than other persons.   In a Massachusetts General Hospital survey, 16% of adults with a primary diagnosis of major depressive disorder had a lifetime history of ADHD.”

Maybe I’m tired right now, but I couldn’t wrap my head around those statistics. Basically, if you’ve got a primary diagnosis of ADHD, you’re likely to have a mood disorder; if you’ve got MDD, you’re likely to also have ADHD; and if you’ve got a primary diagnosis of MDD, you probably have had ADHD for pretty much your whole life. That’s a lot to swallow.

“I am trying to screen more of my depressed patients for ADHD — especially if the patient’s depression is not responding well to treatment. The standard ADHD rating scales are a good place to start.”

I’ve heard it’s hard to screen adults for ADHD; on the flip side, I’ve also been told that it’s more difficult to find ADHD in women than in men. Dr. Doyle’s definitely on the right track here in keeping his eyes open for better ADHD screening. Perhaps I really do have ADHD.


While many celebrities are “outing” themselves on their depressive episodes, Dr. Deborah Serani’s got a list of other well-known people who have either admitted to or speculated to have experienced depression.


I’m late on the bandwagon with this but a study released in December shows that displaced women in Darfur suffer from severe depression. According to an article in Ms. Magazine:

“The International Medical Corps (IMC) posits that women’s multiple roles in society, along with constant stressors like low socioeconomic status, domestic violence, and the threat of rape when venturing outside, may account for the poor mental health of these displaced women. Women’s restricted access to education may also affect their ability to access proper care and make informed decisions about their own physical and mental health.”

And to think those of us in developed countries have problems.

“Almost one-third (31 percent) of women surveyed met the criteria for major depressive disorder while 63 percent reported suffering the emotional symptoms of depression. Five percent reported suicidal thoughts, 2 percent had attempted suicide, and another 2 percent of households had a member commit suicide in the past year. Nearly all of the respondents (98 percent) felt that counseling provided by humanitarian agencies would be the most helpful way of dealing with these feelings.”

It’s good to see that an overwhelming majority of women feel that counseling would help them. Sometimes, people in Western/developed countries take therapy for granted.

“Though depression rates are comparable to, or even lower than, those of other populations displaced by similar conflicts, the rates of suicide and suicidal ideation are ‘alarmingly high in contrast to general rates worldwide,’ according to the report.”

This, unfortunately, makes sense. Suicide is a reaction to ending constant pain. I admire women in Darfur who choose to live despite never-ending pain.  This article puts me to shame somewhat. I am incredibly blessed to have all the amenities of this country and encouragement and love from family and friends. However, I feel pretty stupid when I fall apart over minor things compared to the women in Darfur. It’s an awful cliché, but “I really do have a lot going for me; why am I depressed?”


ViagraFor men: Are you depressed and can’t get an erection? Don’t worry – Viagra can kill two birds with one stone!

A Canadian study (yes, another one) says that Viagra (sildenafil) can help improve mild depression and, of course, aid impotence in men.

“Dr. Sidney Kennedy and his team studied 184 men who had had erection problems for about four years and also met the criteria for minor, but not major, depression.

[After six weeks of treatment], the 98 men who received sildenafil had a 47 per cent reduction in their depression scores, indicating a change from mild to minimal depression. In comparison, men taking placebos had only a 26 per cent decrease in their scores, which remained in the range of mild depression.”

Pfizer’s getting their sales reps started on this one. Expect to see reps carrying Viagra brochures and info to psychiatrists eventually.

Pristiq gains ground with FDA

FDA approval for Pristiq (I'll refer to it as Pq occasionally) is contingent upon Wyeth's handling of "quality control problems… made to the satisfaction of federal inspectors." As I'd previously mentioned before, Wyeth has built an amazingly similar medication based on Effexor. Wyeth is trying to market Pristiq as an antidepressant and treatment for vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes during menopause). Wyeth is significantly banking on Pristiq since their $3.5 billion Effexor XR will lose its patent in a few years, allowing other companies to make venlafaxine generics.

Some of the "quality control" problems Wyeth is experiencing:

  • unclear whether Pq keeps depressive episodes at bay
  • efficacy at low doses and in young kids
  • severe nausea in 50 percent of patients in the clinical trials

Reuters' article notes this, though:

"But the studies do not need to be completed prior to approval of the new depression pill."

While Wyeth has admitted that Pq is "structurally related" to Effexor, it "has not yet disclosed if Pristiq has any advantages over Effexor XR, other than to say it would be an alternative to existing treatments."

But it has acknowledged the newer drug caused nausea in about one-half of patients in clinical trials.

Wyeth is banking on patients sticking out the nausea for one week (it supposedly subsides after that) or a 50 mg pill that would be more effective than the whopping 400 mg they used in earlier phases of the clinical trials.

"The company said it will not launch Pristiq until it obtains results from the low-dose trials. Moreover, Wyeth said the timing of the launch also will depend on progress of the FDA's ongoing review of Pristiq as a possible non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes. The FDA is scheduled to decide on the hot flashes indication in April."

Wyeth wants to be absolutely sure they can cover all of their bases in an effort not to lose a single portion on their market share — from those who can tolerate low doses at 50 mg to those who need to go 400 mg and up.

"A G Edwards analyst Joseph Tooley has predicted Pristiq will garner annual sales of $1.4 billion by 2011 — about $1 billion from use against depression and the remainder for menopausal symptoms."

Getting not only psychiatrists to prescribe the drug, but also OB/GYNs is a clever move on their part.

AFSP on suicide coverage in the media

newspapersI found something from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on media coverage of suicide:

“Research has shown that graphic, sensationalized or romanticized descriptions of suicide deaths in the news media can contribute to suicide contagion, popularly referred to as “copycat” suicides.

Responsible coverage of suicide, in contrast, can educate wide audiences about the likely causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in suicide rates, recent treatment advances and other ways suicide can be prevented.”

I’ve noticed, however, that other countries don’t mind reporting on the suicides of ordinary citizens. For example, India’s media coverage of suicides has uncovered a sad trend of farmer suicides – farmers who commit suicide because of unyielding crops, financial debt, and repossession of their land. If the Indian media did not report on the pattern of these suicides, it might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Australian media has discovered an unnerving trend of high suicide rates among teenagers and older adolescent girls (age 16 and up).

The AFSP highlights the main reason why U.S. media does not normally report on the suicides of ordinary citizens. On a daily basis, far too many suicides are committed, especially by teenagers. The possibility of copycat suicides performed by teenagers can dramatically increase once a story is reported. Teenagers who teeter on the brink of suicide can finalize a plan and launch it into action. The media prefers to report on murder-suicides, which are less frequent, less common, and less likely to launch copycat attempts.

Tyra Banks Fights Back

I liked Tyra Banks before because she seemed really down-to-earth, but I absolutely love her now.

Tyra BanksPeople magazine has run a cover of Banks at an awful weight of 162 lb at 5’10”. (sarcasm) She received tabloid names like “America’s Next Top Waddle” and “Tyra Porkchop.” I’m not even Tyra and that hurt me. I’m barely 5’4″ and used to weigh 162. I was on the verge of being “obese” (as opposed to “morbidly obese.”) Yeah. Even my family told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. There was only one issue that drove me nuts:

“It’s when I put on the jeans that used to fit a year ago and don’t fit now and give me the muffin top, that’s when I say, ‘Damn!’ “

The bar is raised because she’s Tyra and a former model. But she’s absolutely cool about it and not in the business of running to change her new weight:

“Still, she isn’t freaking out about wearing size 32-waist jeans or about “the fat roll” she claims to have on her back. (Her biggest source of figure angst is her size-DD breasts, which she says make it hard to find clothes that fit: “I would love for them to be a size and a half smaller.”)

But, she adds, “I’ve made millions of dollars with the body I have, so where’s the pain in that? If I was in pain, I would have dieted. The pain is not there – the pain is someone printing a picture of me and saying those (horrible) things.”

She’s also aware that the tabloids not only hurt her, but also paint a false reality for young girls and teens:

“I get so much mail from young girls who say, ‘I look up to you, you’re not as skinny as everyone else, I think you’re beautiful,’ ” she says. “So when they say that my body is ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting,’ what does that make those girls feel like?”

My brief struggle with weight — it was only from the beginning of 2004 to the end of 2006 — has taught me a lot about myself and others. I attribute much of my weight gain to Paxil and Lexapro.

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Puppy of the Week

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Wow. I learned something new – “Women are over-represented in all cases of” depression, anxiety, dysthymia and panic attacks. Read more here.


An interesting observation from Gretchen Rubin, blogger of The Happiness Project.

“Studies showed that depressed people have as many nice experiences as non-depressed people, but they remember them less well.”


Graham’s Blog has linked to interesting fashion jewelry: Made with Molecules. For only $20, you can:

“Display your favorite neurotransmitters close to your brain!”

Erhm. The very thought of this disturbs me. Also feel free to purchase a serotonin-happiness card or a dopamine-heart card – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

dopamine heart card

Pfizer is cutting 10,000 from its workforce citing nothing other than loss of profits:

“The drug giant Pfizer said Monday that it would lay off 10,000 workers and close several manufacturing and research sites in an effort to bolster earnings hurt by the loss of patent protection on certain drugs and by setbacks in developing new products.”

I’ve mentioned patent protection before but it seems that Pfizer isn’t generating enough “structurally related” drugs to prevent the loss of its profits to generics. The two biggest losses: Zoloft and Zithromax.

“Pfizer said the moves would save $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year in pretax expenses.

Pharmaceutical industry analysts have generally been welcoming cutbacks by Pfizer but have said that while cost-cutting is beneficial, the company needs to resume growth by bringing new products to market.”

Pfizer’s a big company; I’m sure they’ll have no problems rebounding. However, I have no doubt that the failed torcetrapib factored into Pfizer’s decision to cut staffers.


A Philly plaintiff in the Vioxx suit against Merck has willingly withdrawn her suit. She cannot refile against Merck.

“Merck has consistently said it will fight each case on a one by one basis rather than submit to a large settlement.

In trials that have reached a jury verdict so far, Merck has won nine and lost four, including one Merck victory that since has been thrown out.”

The legal fees surrounding the Merck case must be astounding, but is it really worth it for Merck to drag these cases out against 27,000 other plaintiffs? I would assume on Merck’s part that it would be cheaper to settle. But then again, maybe it’s the whole “we need to clear our name” thing. That’s a fast way to lose profits for a pharma company.

Eli Lilly: Zyprexa causes diabetes; Byetta can help

I found this Bloomberg chart in the Metro Philly newspaper and thought it showed an interesting paradox. I tried to find a link for it on the Internet but as of yesterday, there was none.

Eli Lilly's Byetta

Public Announcement

Any form of clothing or accessories that are on "sale" for $250 are not really on sale. Unless it was previously $950,000. Then maybe.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Since I was born on Groundhog Day (Google it if you don’t know when it is), I found this story about a groundhog so endearing. (And I make sure to turn around on my birthday to see my shadow.)

Cate BlanchettIf you’re over 50 and on antidepressants, look out – you might be doubling your risk for osteoporosis. Fracture risks seem to be unrelated to falls caused by dizziness and low blood pressure. CLPsych’s analysis is also worth a read. (Many thanks to Bob Thompson for the link.)

People has an article on Cate Blanchett talking about marriage:

“Getting married is insanity; I mean, it’s a risk – who knows if you’re going to be together forever? But you both say, ‘’We’re going to take this chance, in the same spirit.’”

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Celebrity Sensitivity: Mandy Moore

Oh man, does this need to become a regular feature.

Our newest depressed celebrity: Mandy Moore.

Mandy Moore“‘A few months ago I felt really low, really sad. Depressed for no reason,’ the 22-year-old actress-singer says in an interview in the February issue of Jane magazine, on newsstands Tuesday.  ‘I’m a very positive person, and I’ve always been glass-half-full,’ she continues. ‘So it was like someone flipped a switch in me. I wanted to figure out why.’

Moore, newly single after high-profile relationships with actor Zach Braff and tennis standout Andy Roddick, says her recent split with Braff didn’t help matters.

‘The breakup added to what I was going through, but it’s not the complete reason,” she tells the magazine. ‘It definitely doesn’t help if you’re already in that place…’

But now — Mandy’s cured!

“Moore, who is working on a new record at a studio in Woodstock, N.Y., and feeling better for doing it, says writing songs ‘away from friends in L.A. or New York’ is good for the soul. ‘Writing has been really therapeutic,’ she says of her music. ‘These little nuggets that have come up over the past eight months have made me look at things in a different way.’”

Writing is therapeutic and helps me sort through my feelings, but it’s never totally resolved my depression. Let’s see if Mandy goes through another “depression” in the future.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to a press release (I’m well aware what I’m saying), a recent study possibly shows that schizophrenia’s physical effects are more widespread in the body; researchers previously theorized that schizophrenia was limited to the central nervous system.

“The findings could lead to better diagnostic testing for the disease and could help explain why those afflicted with it are more prone to type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic health problems.”

Apparently, those who suffer from schizophrenia have abnormal proteins in the liver and red blood cells. While schizophrenia’s most visible effects are psychological, researchers have noted that schizophrenics are at a higher risk for “chronic diseases.” The genetic and physical implications of such a study could prove interesting, especially for those suffering from and at risk for schizophrenia. Also in schizophrenia news, researchers have noticed an “excessive startle response.” The startle response, known as prepulse inhibition (PPI), is being considered as a biomarker for the illness.

Something Furious Seasons might like to argue if he hasn’t taken the following on:

“Lastly, but quite importantly, atypical antipsychotic were found to be more effective than typical antipsychotics in improving PPI, thus ‘normalizing’ the startle response. This led the authors to note:

‘Because an overwhelming number of patients with schizophrenia are currently treated with atypical APs, it is possible that PPI deficits in this population are a vanishing biomarker.”

What’s the advantage with atypicals vs. typicals? How do they work differently? *sigh* I need a pharmaceutical-specific wikipedia.

Schizophrenia News previously wrote about how proof is lacking in schizophrenia developing in those who have suffered from child abuse. (Excuse me for the awful construction of that sentence.) However, a new study shows that those at a high risk for schizophrenia benefit from having a good relationship with their parents during childhood. Read more.

Editor and Publisher has noted that suicides among Army soldiers doubled in 2005 compared to 2004.

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Antidepressants can't save themselves

It’s all too much to handle

comic

Suicide debates rage

Wow. I never realized all the responses that my post on “Suicide” would garner me. Again, I am not proud of my tendencies toward suicidal actions. I have some opinions on the following comments that I’ll reserve until afterward.

First, a comment from Amy:

“My brother committed suicide via hanging in our garage. My parents will never be the same some 17 years later.

Suicide is selfish and to be brutally honest, if you are going to do it do it somewhere where your dearest family and friends will not find you first. The aftermath and lingering nightmares are just too much.”

A follow-up comment from Anna:

“Amy,

I have attempted suicide, unsuccessfully; my sister killed herself, my grandfather killed himself with arsenic, my sister-in-law's mother gassed herself, my step-father's mother took an overdose. We do suicide in my family. All of us have been severely affected by it; I still cry at the thought of walking into my sister's flat and finding the dried pool of blood – an image I will never get out of my head, some 15 years later.

I have kept myself alive through all the pain because I have 3 children who I could not bear the thought of damaging in that way; I have been living for them, not for me.
However, I have tremendous sympathy for all those who attempt or succeed at committing suicide – I say succeed with emphasis. Any person who has ever felt the depths of despair of not being able to face another hour of the intolerable pain of deep depression, would understand the longing to end that pain. Living through it takes an unselfishness which is arguably admirable, arguably the biggest form of self-harm and denial possible. For someone to continue to live with that pain so as to avoid giving someone else the pain of grieving is not necessarily the kindest act; watching your loved one living (or rather "existing") with the pain of depression is arguably as bad, if not worse, than grieving for their death. They are existing in hell for that period of time it takes for them to crawl out of that hell. Nobody wants the person they love to live in hell – why keep them there???

Who is being selfish: the person who takes their life to end their suffering, or the person who watches that person suffering day in day out and doesn't want them to die because they themselves cannot stand the idea of their own grief and suffering when their loved one commits suicide? I personally cannot "judge" which person is being the more selfish.
I wouldn't want my worst enemy to have to endure that pain, day in day out, and to know that the only reason they are keeping themselves alive is for my benefit. Ultimately each of us has the choice to live or die and that choice deserves respect and compassion, not condemnation.

I understand that families left behind are often distraught as my own family has been; I have been, but I also understand why someone does it. If you can develop that understanding, it eases the pain, lessens the blame and enables all who are affected to feel compassion – a vital element in loving and being loved.”

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UPDATE: Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms

I previously wrote about how fluoxetine helped smooth out my withdrawal from venlafaxine. I’m doing much better and am able to function.

What’s the update then?

I’ve got lingering side effects from either the fluoxetine or the venlafaxine – I’m not sure which.

somnolenceThe lingering somnolence/grogginess for about a week or so can definitely be attributed to fluoxetine. I’d never struggled with somnolence on any med except when I first started Effexor in the hospital. Grogginess has never been a problem except for my antihistamine medication hydroxyzine.

The brain shocks still linger. They’re not as bad nor are they frequent. I can walk around, turn, spin – no problem. But if I’m in the middle of walking  down the street and turn my neck slightly to see if a car is coming before I cross – *zap!* – brain shock. That’s all I get for the rest of my 15-minute walk. I’d say that’s pretty good (considering what I’d previously endured).

Dizziness, vertigo, and light-headedness: those are much more frequent. As I sit here and type, my entire field of vision can swirl clockwise and return to normal via counter-clockwise. It happens for about 3 seconds or less, but it’s long enough for me to notice and go, “Whoa.” (Who needs recreational drugs when you’ve got withdrawals from psych meds?) These side effects are not as frequent as they used to be with the direct venlafaxine withdrawal, but they can occur about 30 times or less throughout a 17-hour day (7 a.m.-12 a.m.) for me.

I’ve read that people can use fluoxetine to offset venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms with relatively uneventful side effects. Somnolence was not a fun side effect. Just a warning.

Random news from across the board

I know I blog primarily on mental health, but I can’t help but add my 2 cents on the following:
Colts

  • Times SelectHillary Clinton and health care: The plan sounds nice and feasible, but Ms. Clinton and health insurance have been a disaster in the past. We’ll see what happens the second time around.
  • Colts and Bears face off in Super Bowl: Other than making history with two black coaches facing off in the Super Bowl, I’ve been holding out hope for Peyton Manning to lead his Colts to victory over the N.E. Patriots. The Super Bowl is definitely worth watching for me now. Oh yeah, and the Saints lost. Karma certainly sucks. (photo courtesy New York Times)
  • And I found this on NYT, but I don’t have Times Select and don’t feel like registering for a 14-day free trial (it’s just not worth it to me). If anyone’s seen the regular article or can read the reader responses, please send me some text. I’d be very much obliged.

Keep an eye out for schizo/psychosis drug bifeprunox

Someone get this on Furious Seasons’ radar:

Wyeth is also in development for an atypical antipsychotic, bifeprunox, for schizophrenia. Bifeprunox has no trade name yet.

“Bifeprunox, a dopamine partial agonist, is an investigational atypical antipsychotic for the treatment of schizophrenia. Clinical data were presented from safety and efficacy studies that evaluated bifeprunox for the treatment of schizophrenia in both acutely psychotic patients and patients who have stabilized disease.

While bifeprunox has been shown to have a smaller mean effect in acute psychosis when compared with older atypical antipsychotics that have some well-known side effects, it may be particularly well-suited for patients who are experiencing side effects with their current therapy. The safety data for bifeprunox have consistently shown a favorable weight and metabolic profile in both short- and long-term studies, which is a common and serious side effect that can cause patients to stop taking their medication.”

A few questions on Wyeth’s schizo drug:

  • How long before this is marketed to bipolar I’s with psychosis?
  • Older atypical antipsychotics or older typical antipsychotics?
  • I’d like to see the data on weight and metabolic profiles on this. Most APs don’t have a good track record with weight, i.e. Seroquel, Abilify, Zyprexa.

Bifeprunox will developing over the coming months and years. I’ll probably check out clinicaltrials.gov in the future to check on updates.

Pristiq posing as pristine

The Trouble With Spikol has linked to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Reuters) that covers Wyeth's new Effexor XR knock-off, Pristiq (desvenlafaxine succinate). Why are they launching Pristiq? Their patent on Effexor will expire in July 2010 when making generic versions of the drug will be up for grabs.

"Wyeth said in July, however, that it will not introduce Pristiq until it completes tests of a low 50-milligram dose of the drug, following trials of higher dosages in which about half the patients experienced nausea."

Too bad clinical trials don't test for withdrawal symptoms. Will Pristiq avoid the withdrawal hell issues that Effexor XR has?

“'We will wait for the results of the low-dose trials, which we've said we expect in early 2007, before making a decision' on when to launch Pristiq, company spokeswoman Gwen Fisher told Reuters on Friday.

She said nausea seen in the earlier trials was mild to moderate and generally went away within a week after treatment began.”

How long were these clinical trials and if the nausea was seen in the "earlier trials," what about the most recent trials?

Pending FDA approval, Wyeth would also like to use Pristiq for vasomotor symptoms in menopausal women.  Wyeth's unannounced strategy will be to introduce Pristiq long before Effexor's patent expires so they don't lose any of their $1 billion market share to an Effexor generic.

A Wyeth PR that went under my radar:

“Pristiq, a serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) now is being studied with a specific focus on women. It initially was developed for two indications that currently are pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and vasomotor symptoms (VMS) associated with menopause. 

In the area of depression, Pristiq is expected to improve the balance of serotonin and norepinephrine as compared with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) because of its pharmacologic profile as a dual reuptake inhibitor.”

Isn’t that what SNRIs are supposed to do?

“Clinical studies confirm that Pristiq is effective in both men and women. However, women over age 40 represent about 50 percent of the depression market and could benefit from an antidepressant that addresses their symptoms and physiology.”

No kidding – 50 percent of the depression market and the implication of all women over 40 years old? Sure, I believe that. Looks like Wall Street doesn't have much hope for the new drug either.

“Pristiq also may be a treatment option for patients who are on multiple medications. The compound has a low risk of drug-drug interactions. This is important when considering that depression often is a co-morbid condition in medically ill patients and that these patients frequently are taking multiple medications. The Company expects FDA action for the MDD indication in January 2007.”

The multiple medications thing. Um, I’m not a fan of that unless it’s absolutely necessary. It isn’t necessary in a lot of cases.

“FDA action for the second application for Pristiq for vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause is anticipated in April 2007. Pristiq is expected to provide significant relief of hot flushes (decrease in number and severity) associated with menopause.

If approved, Pristiq will be the first non-hormonal treatment indicated for relief of VMS.

The Company also plans to pursue indications for Pristiq that would include fibromyalgia syndrome and diabetic neuropathic pain.”

Wyeth certainly is attempting to milk this new drug for all it’s worth. I hope Furious Seasons or CLPsych take up on investigating this one since I simply don’t have the time, resources, or ability.

Seroquel abuse and medication weight gain

SeroquelFurious Seasons has blogged about Seroquel (quetiapine) in the past and he recently posted on Seroquel abuse in an Ohio prison. Apparently, inmates have been snorting the atypical antipsychotic, also known in slang terms as “quell” or “Susie-Q.” Excerpt from Furious Seasons:

“Second, we all know that Seroquel is regularly handed out to bipolars and depressives and people with anxiety in order to address insomnia, as opposed to the kind of underlying psychosis/mania issues you’d expect it to be used for. PCPs hand it out this way and so do psychiatrists. What I have noticed among friends who’ve been given Seroquel for sleep issues is that they end up, over a few months time, needing more and more of the drug in order to get an effect. Or, put another way, people keep complaining of problems with sleep despite taking, say, 300 mgs. of Seroquel and their doctor will keep upping the dose to get the desired effect. As a result, I have seen people with very mild bipolar disorder wind up taking 800 mgs. of Seroquel a day–that’s roughly the same that a schizophrenic in a state hospital would get–and still they get no results, aside from putting on tons of weight. I have heard this from other readers of this blog as well.”

My aunt, who works in the psych wing of a hospital, warned me that she’s seen patients on Seroquel gain weight. A man I met at my Bipolar and Depression Alliance Group last night gained 60 lbs since taking Seroquel. I can’t image that everyone who takes Seroquel overeats to a point of obesity and leads a sedentary lifestyle. I have a random theory that Seroquel signficantly slows a person’s metabolism down to the point where it is difficult for a person to lose weight.

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Neurontin: Pfizer and Eli Lilly share a common history

My mother-in-law was telling me yesterday about how her hairdresser’s daughter has been diagnosed bipolar with OCD characteristics. She says her daughter’s on “Neo-something” – she couldn’t quite remember the name.

I racked my brain for a bipolar med name that began with “n.” Nothing really came to mind except for neurontin. I told myself, “No, that can’t be right. Isn’t that associated with VNS?”

Nope; Neurontin really is a medication associated with bipolar disorder. Neurontin’s generic name is gabapentin.

Neurontin (gabapentin)

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Pharmaceutical roundup

AbilifyNearly every mental health blog I know is talking about this post from intueri.org. It’s definitely worth the read. I don’t know much about Abilify, but I don’t think most uneducated bipolars know that it is prescribed specifically for those with psychosis. On the flip side, I don’t think uneducated PCPs know that tidbit either. A person with bipolar without symptoms of psychosis who asks for Abilify may be in for a rude awakening. [UPDATE: Who paid this chick? I only skimmed the post but I don’t see any negative side effects listed.]

I’m not deep into the pharmaceutical industry like all of these heavyweights: CL Psych, PharmaGossip, and Furious Seasons, among many others whom I may have failed to mention. However, there’s a wealth of information to be found. My newest discovery:

“The approach is called ‘ethical pharmaceuticals,’ and it was unveiled on January 2 by Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College, and Steve Brocchini of the London School of Pharmacy, the Guardian reports. Their team of scientists in India and the UK, financed by the prestigious Wellcome with technical assistance from the UK government, have developed a method of making small but significant changes to the molecular structure of existing drugs, thereby transforming them into new products, circumventing the long-term patents used by the corporate giants of Big Pharma to keep prices – and profits – high. [emphasis mine] This will give the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people access to life-saving medicines – now priced out of reach – for mere pennies.”

I read the above on CLPsych’s blog (originally from Chris Floyd at truthout) and couldn’t believe what I was reading. It somewhat ties into what I’ve been researching about Neurontin (which will probably be posted later in the day):

“Pfizer has developed a successor to gabapentin [Neurontin’s generic name], called pregabalin (being marketed as Lyrica®). Structurally related to gabapentin [emphasis mine], pregabalin is effective for neuropathic pain associated with diabetes and shingles, and for the treatment of epilepsy and seizures.”

Pfizer, in an attempt to distance itself from the trouble surrounding Neurontin, developed another medicine – pregabalin, which is similarly structured to gabapentin. Pfizer can now claim, “Don’t like Neurontin? You can have Lyrica instead!” Pfizer also tried to pass off the (illegal) off-label marketing practices with Neurontin off to their acquired division Parke-Davis. So now we’ve got two options: Pfizer either has learned from Parke-Davis’ issues with Neurontin or is pretty stupid and pushing Lyrica for off-label usage similar to that of Neurontin’s. No evidence to support either option… yet. But CLPsych delves into an interesting practice that Pharma companies use to circumvent a drug patent running out:

“News Flash — PhRMA does NOT believe in the free market: While PhRMA likes when the market works in their favor, they also believe in circumventing that same market when it comes to competition. When drugs are slated to come off-patent, which would allow generic version of the drug to be made, PhRMA members have increasingly turned to buying off the competition. That’s right; they simply pay the generic manufacturer to not make a generic version of the patented drug, so that the consumer can continue to pay a hefty price for the drug which is still under patent. [emphasis sorta mine]

Wow. That bit of information has left me speechless. Screw the consumer that can’t afford psych meds without health insurance; we as Big Pharma need our DAMN money!!! [end rant]

This practice, called “reverse payments,” is not something new and, at the current moment, is relatively legal. Supposedly, the FTC and the Department of Justice are keeping their eyes on reverse payments and patients can only imagine what might occur in the future. PharmaGossip has more, but slips this bit of info before linking to the Star-Ledger:

“And with the patents on 70 blockbuster drugs — with a total of $48 billion in annual sales — set to expire by 2011, the industry expects reverse-payment deals to proliferate further.”

The FTC and Justice Department better hurry up and step in so we can finally have a generic version of Lipitor!

In all honesty, my mind can’t simply fathom the depths to which Pharma will stoop to make money. (Perhaps because I don’t work directly within the medical industry.) It has me wondering if Pharma is worse than gas companies. Is OPEC more trustworthy than Eli Lilly? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to the NIH, mothers can ward off postpartum depression by taking a prenatal vitamin to boost low iron levels. Mothers with iron deficiency were twice as likely to be at risk for PPD. Also, in case you didn’t know, counseling can help or stave off PPD as well.

Another NIH study has suggested that people who don’t respond to antidepressants could be aided by an injection of ketamine. Ketamine is primarily used for anesthesia. According to researchers, a dose of ketamine helped improve more than half of the participants’ mood in 2 hours (all 7 of them) while 71 percent felt better after 24 hours (all 13 of them). Supposedly, the effects lasted for a week for a third of the participants (all 4 of them). That’s very nice and all, but I’m looking forward to the follow-up study that analyzes ketamine’s long-term effects and safety.

A departure from news — are you bipolar? Take this quiz to figure it out! (P.S. Don’t take the quiz seriously.)

Dawdy over at Furious Seasons writes about a recent study that ties smoking with a “heightened risk of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder.” And an excerpt of his conversation with a DEA agent at the end of his post is awesome.

I’m also behind on reading many of the blogs on my blogroll so I’m doing my best to catch up – sorry for the delay…

Quote of the Week

Dr. Gregory House
“You and I have found out that being normal sucks. Because we’re freaks. The advantage of being a freak is that it makes you stronger. ” — Dr. Gregory House

(Courtesy of PsychCentral)

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Yay for the New York Times! Alex Berenson, doggedly keeping up on the Zyprexa story, has written an article about how state prosecutors in Vermont and Illinois are now demanding that Eli Lilly submits documents to them about their marketing practices of Zyprexa. Something I didn’t know:

“Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have also recently accelerated their own investigation into Lilly’s marketing of Zyprexa.”

My residence in the Philly area has prompted me to follow this closely now. More juicy information:

“In a statement yesterday, Lilly said it would cooperate with the investigations and had done nothing wrong. ‘We intend to cooperate with the Illinois attorney general’s civil investigative demand relating to Zyprexa,’ the company said.

While the investigation being led by Illinois is civil, other investigations into Lilly’s conduct are both civil and criminal. [emphasis mine] Attorneys general in California and Florida may seek to recover Medicaid payments that the states made for Zyprexa. Any fine or cost recovery could be sizable, because Zyprexa has been a commercial success.”

Because investigators need to search through more than 10,000 documents relating to Zyprexa and its marketing and talk to former and current employees about the matter, it could take years for anything to happen. Berenson’s last paragraph at the end brought my excitement to a quick halt:

“As long as drug makers comply with federal requirements to provide data about their products to the Food and Drug Administration, companies have a relatively strong defense against criminal prosecution, according to lawyers who are experts in drug marketing.”

Great. So as long as Lilly complies with the FDA and state and federal prosecutors, they can escape criminal prosecution. Please don’t tell families who have loved ones who died over this medication. Lilly’s settlements are nice and all, but money is never restitution for someone’s death. I’ll soon have a post up about how Pfizer had this issue with Neurontin from 2002-2004. They, too, had to pay more than $430 million to settle lawsuits on civil and criminal charges. Pfizer plead guilty; let’s see if Eli Lilly follow suit (no pun intended).

Andre WatersI’ve been a little late on the bus with this, but I’ve previously written about Andre Waters who killed himself in November. Despite theories of depression surrounding his suicide, a neurologist has claimed that Waters sustained brain damage from playing football which triggered his depression and led to his death. Dr. Bennet Omalu, an expert in forensic pathology, says that Water’s brain tissue “had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer’s victims.” Omalu gets pretty grim though:

“If [Waters] had lived, within 10 or 15 years ‘Andre Waters would have been fully incapacitated.'”

The NFL has no comment.

doggieAs I’ve been trying to tell my husband recently, pets can relieve symptoms of depression. Come on, who can be sad when you’ve got an happy little dog wagging its tail at you with bundles of love? (I’m thinking cute little Yorkies or friendly Golden Retrievers.) Owning a pet can have great mental health benefits:

  • Can reduce anxiety
  • Induce social contact
  • Promote a better quality of life
  • Help kids develop higher self-esteem and lower levels of fear

The only downside: animals can cause stress. But it seems like the stressors can be addressed, i.e. animal training, neutering. (source: The Trouble With Spikol)

Also linked to by Liz Spikol, another interesting mental illness combatant: sports therapy. It seems that it can help those suffering from PTSD, abuse, amnesia, and shyness. Italian doctors, however, a testing to see if soccer can treat illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. This should be interesting.

Oh, and NOTHING to do with mental illness, but I found this NYT article on weight loss and maintaining it quite interesting.

Saturday Stats

"Firearms were used in 73% of suicides committed by adults over the age of 65 in 2001." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley

Stuart Smalley

I received this forward and it sounds like something from the SNL skit, “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley,” but it cheered me up and found it worthwhile. Just something to keep in mind when you hear the lie in your head that “No one loves you.” (I think that ALL the time despite a very supportive and caring husband.)

P.S. I had NO idea that Al Franken was on SNL. I always thought it was Mike Myers. Oops.

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The Worst Things To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed: 1-10

Most of the following stuff I've heard from my mother, but I've also heard some of the stuff from different people at different periods in my life, mainly in high school. I always got the “you're just looking for attention” spiel. I HATE that phrase. I can think of better ways to try and grab your attention without wondering if I should crash my car, jump off a terrace, or hang myself.

I’ll divide the list up by 10 to be published each week. Even I couldn’t sit down and read 98 of them at one time. But if you’re itching to see the entire list: go here . I’ll bold the ones that have been applied to me.

“People trivialize depression (often unintentionally) by dropping a platitude on a depressed person as if that is the one thing they need to hear. Which it is probably the last thing they need to hear. While some of these thoughts have been helpful to some people (for example, some find that praying is very helpful), the context in which they are often said mitigates any intended benefit to the hearer. Platitudes do not cure depression. Here is a list of the worse things you can say:

(I have heard 99% of these myself and all get under my skin, but have learned to try to take it with a grain of salt.)” 

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