As a writer of all things pharmaceutical it was good to see Ricky Gervais include the side effects of the antidepressant Prozac in his latest movie, David Brent: Life on the Road.
It was a subtle line but one I picked up on (given the nature of the work I do) - Brent, Ricky Gervais' comic creation, took Prozac and became addicted to it, it also made him gain weight. Fantastic to see Gervais highlight this, even if it was lost amongst his many other one-liners that were, at times, cringe worthy.
There's even a scene where Brent pays a visit to his therapist, being oh-so careful with what he says to her (probably because he doesn't want to be labelled and drugged again)
David Brent has moved on from Wernham Hogg, he's no longer boss, although he does claim to be his own boss - he's still totally un-PC, he's still unaware that he's totally un-PC.
We see the introduction into his life-long ambition - hitting the road with a makeshift band, Forgone Conclusion - all in it for the money with the exception of wannabe rapper Dom Johnson, played brilliantly by Doc Brown - He's black by the way, something that Brent explains when introducing him to his manager back at the office, where incidentally he has his own parking space (I won't spoil the subtle panning of the camera that reveals the parking space names)
I sat in darkness watching the 96 minute movie. There was times when I felt guilty for laughing at the handicapped and racist lines but they are what made Brent, Brent. He's awkward to have around because you just don't know what he's going to say next or, more importantly, who he is going to offend next.
He's a lovable dreamer who, unlike too many people, actually chases his dreams - for that you have to stand up and salute him.
David Brent is a fictional character yet we all know someone like him - It's the delivery of Gervais that makes Brent such an appealing character - or rather the pauses and facial expressions. Comedy, at times, is best delivered with those moments of silence, something Gervais has mastered the art of.
Brent is a tragic character yet he is someone that we can't live without - he reminds us of how we all, deep down, want to be loved and how we, at times, miss what's going on around us in search of our dreams.
The songs played by Forgone Conclusion, with Brent on lead vocals, are hideously embarrassing, they would be, given that Brent penned the lyrics. If there were a cushion in the cinema I would have put it in front of my face for the song, or rather the lyrics, he chose to perform about the "handicapped" - The introduction of which was uncomfortable, given that there was a guy in a wheelchair in the sparse audience.
David Brent is still wanting to be loved - he's still a chilled out entertainer.
He's still annoyingly funny and for 96 minutes he made me forget about the real world that I find myself submersed in on a daily basis.
I'd have a beer with him any day of the week. (And I wouldn't need paying)
Catch David Brent: Life on the Road
when you can ~ Keep repeating, "It's only a movie, it's only a movie..."
Following on from yesterday's blog post, Antidepressants: The Apathy and Ignorance
, I have another issue that needs addressing.
There's many people who add comments to Twitter, Facebook and media article threads regarding the dangers of antidepressants. I've seen comments that suggest the authors of the said pieces are scaremongering or are irresponsible for making claims that antidepressants can induce psychosis that can, in turn, lead to acts of suicide and homicide.
The best is the comment used by many, "Antidepressants saved my life."
The issue I have with this is that, to date, there is no scientific evidence of this claim yet when you ask those who write about their lives being saved by antidepressants if they can back up their claims the only evidence they will use is along the lines of, "Yeh, take me as an example - I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Prozac, Seroxat, Zoloft etc".
That's the science behind their claim?
It's no more convincing than claiming that Jesus saved your life. It's a personal belief and not backed by any study by the pharmaceutical industry.
Here's the rub...
There are, however, studies that show antidepressants increase suicidal thinking yet these are, in the main, brushed aside by those who make claims that their lives were saved. Even the warning leaflets that accompany these pills warn of an increase in suicidal thinking - but guess what? There are no claims on these leaflets that the medication will 'save lives.'
Powerful marketing and an ignorant and apathetic public will claim that all medications have side effects but they are missing the point.
: Antidepressants do not save lives, to suggest that they do is irresponsible.
Next time you see these claims, feel free to add the picture (below) - I designed it myself using a Google image I grabbed.
No doubt those who make these wild claims will take umbrage and may even suggest you are scaremongering and stopping people from taking their medication - almost every article, if not all, in the media usually carry some sort of disclaimer after running stories about antidepressant induced suicide/homicide. Do not abruptly stop your medication, they tell us, followed by, "Talk to your doctor."
Your doctor will no doubt tell you to ignore the conspiracy theorists - Just ask him for the proof that antidepressants save lives, the actual studies and not patient claims.
Watch him/her squirm and fob you off with silliness. Then ask him/her for the studies that show that antidepressants increase suicidal thinking.
You'll probably be escorted out of the building.
A few weeks ago a guest post on David Healy's blog prompted a reply from me. The post
, eloquently written by Sally MacGregor, was, in essence, a discussion about convincing the people whose attitudes toward antidepressant induced psychosis is, at best, apathetic.
I've experienced this many times, particularly on social media where people, or friends from yesteryear (that we don't see anymore) would rather post a photo of a cute kitten or puppy then disseminate information about antidepressants causing kids to kill themselves or women having to abort fetuses because of antidepressant induced birth defects.
I see it on a daily basis in comment sections of newspapers too, one in particular caught my attention.
It's from The Independent
and the author of the piece is Katinka Blackford Newman who recently launched her new book, The Pill That Steals Lives: One Woman's Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth about Antidepressants
, featured in, The Independent
, throws out the question of recent acts of violence and she, quite rightly, asks if these recent spate of attacks across Europe may be down to psychiatric medication.
The response in the comment section was typical of the apathy and ignorance that accompanies such questions.
One commentator, who clearly misses the point, writes...
"Do the independent trawl the world looking for loonies who can fill a few columns with their farcical articles.day after day I despair at how far this paper has fallen."
Another, somewhat more articulated response than the above commentator, writes...
"This is pretty irresponsible! A very tiny minority of people who take these drugs ever have a psychotic break.
"Correlation is not causation. And I think the author is thoroughly confused about this.
"It's bad enough to have a mental illness and experiencing the stigma without stories like this in the news: now the medicine is going to make us into mass murderers? Please. "
There's many more.
So, it's left to the choir once again to try to convince the ignorant and apathetic that they are not armed with all the facts and such negative responses to an article, whether they believe it to be true or not, really doesn't solve anything.
It left me wondering how many of these commentators actually go off and do their own research before leaving such comments - it reminds me of the scene from the movie, Dumb & Dumber where Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carey, covers his ears because he just does not want to take on board what his friend, Harry Dunne, played by Jeff Daniel's, is telling him.
These same commentators should be asked the question, What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?
Then again, they'd probably answer, I don't know and I don't care.
The comments left in the Independent article remind me so much of that scene from Dumb & Dumber, so much so that it's left a burning image with me for the rest of the night.
The following needs few words. It's a post, one of my first, where I shall just use photos and link to the original stories.
Enjoy these rib tickling attempts at defining how depression and other psychiatric illnesses are diagnosed. Moreover, how the drugs used to treat these apparent illnesses, work.
1. The Priory Group prescribes “medication to restore the chemical imbalance in your brain’s limbic system”
2. "Chemical properties of these drugs (SSRI’s) are restoring resilience in the brain."
3. Eye test gives flicker of hope to psychiatric patients
Talk about moving the goalposts!
Last month I wrote to both the British and European drug regulators regarding recent evidence that has surfaced in Douglas De Coninck's book, De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead.
In short, the book centres around the 2012 bus crash that happened in the Sierre Tunnel, A9 Autobahn, Valais, Switzerland and alleges that the driver, Geert Michiels, 34, was in a destructive relationship and had also been medicated with GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat. The generic name for Seroxat is paroxetine and it is better known in the US and Canada by its brand name Paxil and in Australia and New Zealand as Aropax.
My email to both medicine regulators can be read here (Email to Medicine Regulators Regarding 2012 Sierre Bus Crash
The MHRA have now replied. As yet I have still not received a reply from the European regulator.
The MHRA reply is below ~ My follow-up questions follow the two page MHRA letter.
Click image to enlarge.
My reply to their response...
Thank you for your recent correspondence.
I have some follow on questions that may or may not be deemed to fall under the Freedom of Information Act. If they do, then please treat them as such.
Q1: You claim in your letter sent to me, ref GENQ-00113734, that Sharma's findings were "consistent with the outcome of previous regulatory reviews."
Given that fluoxetine was one of the antidepressants used in the Sharma study, do you still maintain that it is a safe and effective treatment for use in adolescents?
Q2: In the third paragraph of the letter you sent me you state, "With regards to your comments on the Yellow Card Scheme, this is a national scheme that collects reports for reactions occurring in the UK and therefore we cannot complete a report based on the book reference you have provided; De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead. As part of their pharmacovigilance responsibilities however Marketing Authorisation Holders are expected to monitor medical and scientific literature which discusses potential side effects to their products and to report these to the relevant national competent authorities as appropriate."
Now that you have been made aware of the De busramp in Sierre: 1 Pill, 28 Dead book, will you, as a regulator, be making any efforts to contact the Marketing Authorisation Holders regarding the findings of the author?
Q3: In Sharma's study the authors state that they had "only partial access to appendices with no access to case report forms, the harms could not be estimated accurately."
Based on this statement, have the MHRA or the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency had complete access to all appendices and case report forms?
If yes, could you please forward me all appendices and case report forms that Sharma et al never had access to.
If no, can you explain how a safety review panel (MHRA or the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency) can make an accurate decision when appendices and case report forms are missing.
Did Seroxat Trigger the Fatal Sierre 2012 Bus Crash?
Sierre Bus Crash Revisited
Email to Medicine Regulators Regarding 2012 Sierre Bus Crash
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