Chutz.pa [khoot-spuh] - noun slang
Today, I received a spam email with this heading: "Abilify Kills: An Update on the Dangers of Abilify."
The sender is the infamous Andy Behrman, author of "Electroboy." The memoir detailed Andy's career as hustler, stripper, art forger, convicted felon, sex addict, recreational drug user, and psychiatric patient. In the book, Andy attributes his strange behavior to bipolar disorder, and back in 2002 when the book came out a sympathetic public (myself included) took him at his word.
In light of events that occurred after publication, and particularly more recently, however, it is clear that bipolar is not Andy's main diagnosis. A revisit of the book indicates there are far more believable ways to explain his deviance: novelty-seeker, drug addict, antisocial, and narcissistic all come to mind.
I do not want to play "pin-the-diagnosis" on Andy. But let's take bipolar out of the equation. Bipolar is an episodic illness: whatever happens in mania stays in mania. Andy is not like that. His behavior plays out a lot differently. To recap:
Beginning in 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb paid Andy $400,000 over two years as a celebrity patient spokesperson for Abilify. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Andy had only been on the med for four days when he said in a promotional video that "since I switched to Abilify, almost all the side effects have gone away ... In fact, all of them have gone away."
But soon after taking the drug, Andy developed side effects (akasthesia and mental sluggishness) and had to go off the med. Nevertheless, apparently with the consent of BMS, Andy continued to deliver speeches written by BMS. He was paid $40,000 per reading.
While still a spokesman for the drug, Andy started saying bad things about it. Not surprisingly, BMS did not renew his contract. According to the WSJ, Andy asked for $7.5 million and was seeking hush money to stay quiet. Soon after his confidentiality agreement with the company ended at the end of 2008, Andy started singing a different tune.
In a spam email dated May 14, Andy wrote: "Today I am preparing to sell a new book, Adventures in the Drug Trade, which details my nightmarish experience with Abilify, my treatment by ... a former UCLA psychopharmacologist now at the Mayo Clinic and curiously no longer a medical consultant for BMS, and my experiences as a pusher of their not-so-wondrous wonder drug."
According to Andy: "Today, The Wall Street Journal published a front page story about my experience titled, 'A Celebrity Patient's Backing Turns Sour for Drug Company.'"
Andy did not link to the article, which made him look a lot worse than BMS (which is no mean feat). According to the WSJ: "Mr Behrman adds that he doesn't care what people think about his changing accounts of his experiences with Abilify. 'I think it is normal to have had a lapse in judgment because I was handled and manipulated by so many people,' he says."
In the same spam email, Andy included two links to his short YouTube video, entitled "Abilify Kills."
Today's spam email is basically a repeat of the first. Again, he lauds the WSJ for "exposing" the practices BMS and its partner Otsuka and "bringing the issue ... into public scrutiny." Again, no link to the article. Again, two links to his YouTube video.
Here's where the chutzpah part comes in. Aside from antipsychiatry bloggers, support for Andy has not been forthcoming. In two previous blog posts (here and here) I was highly condemnatory of Andy. Nevertheless, in his latest email, Andy claims: "TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THIS VIDEO SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED AND THE VIDEO HAS ALSO BEEN POSTED AND MENTIONED ON INNUMERABLE MENTAL HEALTH WEBSITES." (Caps are all his.)