Friday, May 15, 2009
Yesterday, I posted a piece that was less than complementary concerning Andy Behrman's involvement as a celebrity patient spokesperson for Bristol-Myers Squibb, makers of Abilify. Andy is the author of "Electroboy."
In response, Andy posted a comment stating his position. Without comment, I'm reposting his remarks here:
I'd like to set the record straight. I'd like to explain what was not mentioned in the article in the Wall Street Journal. I'd like to explain that WHILE I was still employed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, I spoke at a DBSA convention in Sacramento and to an audience of hundreds of people and disclosed the fact that I suffered from side effects - akathasia and cognitive impairment - from Abilify (and this was at an event at which BMS was a sponsor).
But until then, even after I complained about my side effects to my doctor, Dr. Mark Frye, a BMS consultant, I was begged not to discuss my side effects and that "we'll prop you up on other meds until things 'even out.'"
They tried. It didn't work. I ultimately told a BMS employee at the time (now at Otsuka) that I suffered from side effects and was no longer taking the drug. I was told that it wasn't "necessary to bring this up." So finally, I spoke up about my situation - in public - and then wrote about it - on about.com/bipolar - and BMS made sure that those statements were removed.
I was convinced by my own doctor and several BMS employees that it was "normal to have side effects and that there was no reason to go off Abilify." I disagreed. I finally came off Abilify and went public with the story.
I was constantly reminded by more than 15 people managing me, that "it was all fine." I told the truth. I wasn't re-hired. Curiously, even after BMS/Otsuka knew that I had side effects and was NOT on the drug, I was asked to speak - six months later - as a successful patient for a 50th Anniversary Celebration for Otsuka in L.A.
I was offered $50,000. I turned down the invitation. I was also told that it was "okay" to speak for Otsuka, because it was a separate company from BMS. I have always told the truth about my experience with Abilify. But more importantly, BMS made every effort to cover up the truth. And now, because I'm blowing the whistle on them, they don't even have a real comment, except for, "we didn't know."
They knew EVERYTHING. It's curious that my doctor and their medical director, Dr. Mark Frye, is no longer employed by them. I think people will be curious to see his medical records which he kept of my treatment and perhaps to learn more about media training that BMS gave to me. Or to see the speeches that they wrote for me. There's a lot that was not reported in a 3,000 word front page story.
But I think the real story here is that companies like BMS not only hide side effects (like akathasia), but do whatever they can do when they see that their spokesman, the guy who launched their big drug, is failing on it.