Monday, June 8, 2009

Andy Behrman - Some People Don't Know When to Stop [khoot-spuh] - noun slang 1. Supreme nerve or gall; 2. Andy Behrman.

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.)

Andy-Andy-Andy ...


Andy Behrman said...

Well, I'll give it a shot, John.

The Wall Street Journal absolutely did not state that I was seeking "hush money." It just stated that I demanded $7.5 million, which I to this day, will tell you is an untruth. That comment was reported in the same newspaper.

I suppose my big question for you is, "Why don't you want to discuss the side effects and marketing of Abilify?"

If it's of no interest to you, then I'll leave it to other media which you'll see published and broadcast in the coming weeks and months.

But since you've described me as such a relentless self-promoter (it has always been imp;ortant to me to sell my book as much as it is for you to sell your book - - we all know that - - and that's nothing to be ashamed of), I can only be thankful that you could find nothing more interesting to write about but my e-mail (or spam) that I sent out today.

Or, perhaps, my problem with Abilify is actually something which may be important to patient consumers and doctors.

I doubt that you could possibly agree with that, could you?

Thanks for bringing even more attention to the issue.

John McManamy said...

It comes down to this, Andy: It's Andy's word against Andy's word. The only thing we can count on from you is that - yes - you will get a lot of publicity.

Anonymous said...

I received the same May 14 "Andy Behrman Tells the Truth." email from a friend who wanted my opinion on it. My reply (and it does, John, repeat a few of the points you make – but I hadn’t read your article before I wrote it):

Dear *****,

I’m not going to forward this e-mail because I think Andy Behrman is much less interested in fighting Big Pharm than in promoting his new book. This is typical of him. If you go to his website (, you’ll see that it’s not about the illness – it’s all about him. He advertises his consulting services – at $225 per hour – and this guy doesn’t have any sort of psychological credentials!

I’d recommend that you look at this (admittedly, dated) article in the NY Times before you forward this to others:

I hope you’re doing well! Talk with you soon.



PS: $225 per hour! I wish I had enough spare change to find out what Andy does to earn that.

PPS: I’ve never taken Abilify, but I’ve spoken to numerous people who have. Some of them had negative experiences; some of them had positive experiences. All of them, though, paid a lot of money for the stuff. Not the other way around, as was Andy’s experience. Financially, I wish I were Andy. Ethically, though...well, that’s another question.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in thinking Berman an incredibly narcissistic bullshitter after having waded through his book. The fact that he offers his readers his "consulting services" to the tune of $225 per hour further cements it for me. Andy, you have nothing to offer your fellow mental health consumers that in any way furthers their pursuit of stability. Shame on you for taking advantage of those who are sick enough, and desperate enough to give you money to help them.

Sharon said...

My partner, Steve was put on abilify about 6 weeks ago. When we said to the doctors, who reviewed him weekly, that he had horrendous side effects, they increased the dose. Then they increased it again. Then again. Two days ago, I found Steve, my love and my life, dead in our. bed. I will let you know PM results when I do.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, that is mortifying. Praying for you. I suffer from mental illness and am trying (desperately) to get my meds regulated. Ablilify is going on the big no-no list. Thank you so much for sharing, and I send healing thoughts to you and those you hold close.

Kerstin Gomez said...

I think you all should consider that Andy may be speaking the truth. I found this blog by googling Abilify Kills, because frankly, I'm certain it killed my mom.

She was in an Adult Living Facility that was finding her difficult to live with and *they* recommended to her doctor that she be prescribed Abilify. My sister agreed to it agains my wishes and soon after my mom was twitching wildly, hallucinating and in a matter of months, dead.

My advice to all who are told that putting their parents on Ability is that they consider carefully all other options, so that you don't have to live with the guilt I have to live with.