talking about bipolar disorder

Marketing Bipolar Disorder

G.J. Gregory Community Member June 26, 2007
  • I am, at times, a very cynical person.  Not necessarily by nature, it depends on my mood and frame of mind at the time.  Right now my SAD has my energy level way down, which adversely affects my complete being.  It also has my cynicism up.

    The other day I was watching TV, and CBS aired a "public service announcement" (PSA) about bipolar disorder.  Mark Harmon starred, and it was tastefully done.  He said it takes an average of 10 years to diagnosis bipolar disorder, which is "10 years of needless suffering."  I was happy to see it, and eagerly jumped online to look up the featured link CBS Cares.  I found well-written, in-depth articles and interviews with top medical experts about many health topics, including bipolar disorder.   I read completely through the depression and bipolar parts of the site, and came away with new information and insights.  But that cynicism was gnawing, so I dug.  2 clicks later I was on the AstraZeneca web site, the maker of the bipolar disorder drug Seroquel.  I’m not insinuating that AstraZeneca had anything to do with the site or it’s content.  But no matter where you are with respect to bipolar disorder, you’re rarely more than "2 clicks" removed from pharmaceutical money.

    Before we go any further, I’m not one of those that sees the pharmaceutical industry as evil.  It makes my quality of life, and that of my loved ones, much better.  But I am concerned about the proliferation of "disease mongering", or the marketing of medications with the intent of increasing diagnoses, and therefore, med sales.

    Per an article published in the BMJ, Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering, they describe disease mongering as "widening the boundaries of treatable illness in order to expand markets for those who sell and deliver treatments."  They go on to say that "Pharmaceutical companies are actively involved in sponsoring the definition of diseases and promoting them to both prescribers and consumers. The social construction of illness is being replaced by the corporate construction of disease."

    A friend, Gen, wrote me the other day.  She said:
    …have you noticed the ridiculous number of ads for "bipolar medications" in various magazines? in virtually every single issue of US, there's an ad for Seroquel. interesting, huh? it's a full spread and usually about four pages long.  AND, in downtown Chicago, there are covered bus stops where there are ads on the side. one i saw the other day: "feeling glum? have a lot of energy? you may have bipolar disorder."
    The one that hits home with me is the "Depression Hurts" TV spot by the anti-depressant Cymbalta.  When that ad came out, there was no hint it was medication marketing, it looked like a caring PSA.  It directed you to their website, where you had to do some digging to find the true reason for the spot.  Since then, they have started identifying that the ad is for Cymbalta.  That ad has raised awareness of depression, there’s no disputing that.  But it’s painful for me, as a prescription of Cymbalta a few years ago precipitated the mania that ended up with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

  • It is inarguable that increased public knowledge of a condition like bipolar disorder is a good thing.  If it helps through diagnosis to save a single life, who can argue the benefit?  But yet, the thought of creating demand through the marketing of medication makes me uncomfortable. 
    I’d be interested in other’s thoughts on this.  Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
16 Comments
  • puzzled
    Mar. 11, 2010

    Commenting from a mom whose son committed suicide recently and whose son commented in his "note" the anti-anxiety medicines really didn't work: now, drug companies tell us "if your regular medication isn't working as it should, maybe you need____". I wish I knew while our son was taking years and years of Effexor. I feel like throwing something at the TV set....

    RHMLucky777

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    Commenting from a mom whose son committed suicide recently and whose son commented in his "note" the anti-anxiety medicines really didn't work: now, drug companies tell us "if your regular medication isn't working as it should, maybe you need____". I wish I knew while our son was taking years and years of Effexor. I feel like throwing something at the TV set.

    I feel drug companies show those commercials over and over again making people think something is really wrong with them. They need to be, at least, responsible enough to put a 1-800 help line in the commercial for people who are in seriuos need and can be suicidal. "Call your doctor", it says. You mean call you doctor, go through the phone tree, leave a message for the nurse to call you back which can take some time. The doctor will want to see you and then schedule an appt. which could take days or weeks. Drug companies need to stop playing with people's heads and direct them to a 1-800 immediate help line.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Oct. 09, 2009

         As someone previously said, it IS a double-edged sword.  However, our son, diagnosed with BPD at the age of 13 had also shown symptoms of this illness since he was very, very young.  Treated with an AD, Zoloft, for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Major Depression, since 2nd grade, some of his symptoms abated, but...

    RHMLucky777

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         As someone previously said, it IS a double-edged sword.  However, our son, diagnosed with BPD at the age of 13 had also shown symptoms of this illness since he was very, very young.  Treated with an AD, Zoloft, for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Major Depression, since 2nd grade, some of his symptoms abated, but a rapid-cycling mania precipitated further investigation and resulted in the additional BPD diagnosis. We have three other children, none with any of these mental disorders.  However in family history, a paternal great-grandmother may have had schizophrenia (or BPD?) and a maternal great-grandfather probably had undiagnosed BPD. 

         Without drug companies continual research and introduction of new prescription drugs on the market, these disorders would continue unchecked or patients would resist continuing drugs that may cause completely individual side effects.  I, too, wish there was legislation prohibiting this kind of commercial advertising; however, the PSA element to their advertising is desperately needed to inform and educate not just those who may have these disorders but their loved ones, as well, not to mention society as a whole so that stigmas can be removed.

         Without the money behind the advertising that comes from the drug companies, the PSA's would not be aired nearly enough.  So, again, a double-edged sword, but giving people who are ill the benefit of the doubt seems more important to me.  There are always going to be bad doctors.  If you feel something is not right, go to a different doctor.  But when you've struggled with a child, as we have, for years and his life is a living hell, not to mention its effect on the entire family, I thank God for the drug that has given me my son back.  Bipolar Disorder is not a fad diagnosis, contrary to what people think.  When you have someone you love exhibit it, it is more real than you wish for.  Nobody fantasizes or idealizes such a dire diagnosis.  It is for a lifetime and there is no cure.  Have some compassion.

     

  • Anonymous
    Ben
    Aug. 23, 2009

    A few years back, I wound up in the doctors office. I was expeirencing vertigo and had back and neck pains that were keeping me up at night. This was the first doctor I had seen since moving to Michigan from Vermont. He asked the standard questions and when It came to the part where I explained how I came to live in MI, things got wierd. I told him that my...

    RHMLucky777

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    A few years back, I wound up in the doctors office. I was expeirencing vertigo and had back and neck pains that were keeping me up at night. This was the first doctor I had seen since moving to Michigan from Vermont. He asked the standard questions and when It came to the part where I explained how I came to live in MI, things got wierd. I told him that my 1 year old daugter lived here and I moved to be with her. He then asked how I came to have a daughter in another state and I told him that i had met her mother online and had a lond distance relationship with her. Then, without missing a beat he said "Do you usually 'up and leave' your home?". Right here I got very confused. I hadnt up and left any where. I had been seeing my daughter's mother for 2 1/2 years before the very long process of moving had begun. "It sounds like you may have bipolar disorder" he said.

    "Woah, wait a muinute", I replied. "I didnt up and leave my home".

    "But you just said you you met someone online and moved here to michigan." he says.

    "But there was alot that went into that...." I tried to explain the the amount of time and effort that went into my moving, but he kept countering....COUNTERING. like i was on trial or something.

    This guy totaly made it sound like I met some random chick online and rushed over to start a family, which was not the case at all. And finally when i told him that I,ve never experienced a "mood swing" in all my life, he says "well some people are up all the time and some people are down all the time." WHAT?! This guy was obviously fishing for a disease, but why? At this point I'm redy to walk out of the office when he gives his final selling point. "you know, this will hlep decrese youyr migraine attacks"

    "OK", I thought. I know damn well I don't have this stupid fad disorder he's pitching, but to be migraine free would be nice. What could be the harm, right?

     

    If I had only known.

     

    Whatever this garbage was that he prescribed put my emotions on lockdown. It was like being removed from my soul. Nothing interested me. I couldn't react to anyting at all. The only thing remember feeling was terror. I was robbed of any emotional content. When it finally wore off, i flushed the rest of the prescription down the toilet, and cursed ever going to that quack. And I still had my back and neck pains.....

     

    These doctors sell drugs. It's true. I can't can't even remember the amount of times i've gone in for a physical problem and the slightest mention of stress or trouble and I hear "Well, it sounds like you may be depressed....." and then they hand me a prescription for som SSRI and my original problem was blown off. Even if I tell them i'm not sad!

     

    I don't know what the cause of all this is, but i'm sick of every problem ending with a psych med. And it's not just me. Nearly everyone i know has at one point or another had a problem with there doctors selling them a cure for a disease they themselves insist they dont have. They come up with these diagnoses without a proper evaluation, or in my case, with just a 10 minute visit. It's time doctors stop manufacturing diseases to sell pharmeceuticles.

     

     

     

  • Anonymous
    Sherri L. Connell
    May. 04, 2009

    I've been a little concerned about the bipolar commercial that Mark Harmon speaks out in. My concern originates in the fact that, I too, suffer a bit from the disorder, according to my doctor. And in all reality, I believe it to be so. The disturbing fact is, when we, here in mid-Missouri, see the announcement it stops dead in mid sentence within the first...

    RHMLucky777

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    I've been a little concerned about the bipolar commercial that Mark Harmon speaks out in. My concern originates in the fact that, I too, suffer a bit from the disorder, according to my doctor. And in all reality, I believe it to be so. The disturbing fact is, when we, here in mid-Missouri, see the announcement it stops dead in mid sentence within the first 5 or 6 seconds. This has been going on for many, many months now if not a couple of years. I don't know if CBS is responsible or our own local station, channel 13 out of Columbia, MO. I am not kidding....this is not a joke, though it may sound so given the topic. This happens every single morning, without fail, between the hours of 6am and 7am. As a matter of fact, we have NEVER seen the commercial in it's entirety. In the beginning, it was kind of funny, being about bipolar dissorder and all. But now it's getting a little wearing.  I wonder, if anybody else has ever tried to report what is happening. I hope that this will soon be resolved.

    In all sincerity,

    Sherri L. Connell

    Jamestown, MO 65046

  • Anonymous
    Nancy Viens
    Feb. 02, 2009

    My son is 36 years old and has been dealing with his bipolar disorder since he was diagnosed at 17.  Two years ago, he went off of his five medications because he said "they were making me sick."  He was very psychotic, but I do believe that the reason he was so sick was because he was on 5 different meds--Lithium, Seroquel, Abilify, Klonopin, and...

    RHMLucky777

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    My son is 36 years old and has been dealing with his bipolar disorder since he was diagnosed at 17.  Two years ago, he went off of his five medications because he said "they were making me sick."  He was very psychotic, but I do believe that the reason he was so sick was because he was on 5 different meds--Lithium, Seroquel, Abilify, Klonopin, and Inderal (to counteract the tremors from the other meds).  He had symptoms of tardive dyskenesia, as well as many other side effects such as indigestion, sleeplessness (the Klonopin was supposed to help that), extreme anxiety, rash (from the Abilify), he dropped out of school, and could not work--he was just disintegrating.  Finally, after he had been off of ALL meds for a year, he signed himself into the psychiatric hospital for 2 weeks.  Since then, he has done very well and is on only one medication--Respirdal.  He is not working yet, but he is taking his life one day at a time.  I am very cynical about the overselling of pharmaceuticals.  I wish we could have all the years back when he was suffering so from over-medication!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Nov. 05, 2008

    I received the bipolar diagnosis two years ago this month (bipolar 2, rapid cycling).   I actually went to the two (independent) doctors trying to skew their diagnoses away from bipolar because I "knew" depression can be transitory while bipolarity is permanent. While I could immediately make sense of the previous 23 years of my life (and much of...

    RHMLucky777

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    I received the bipolar diagnosis two years ago this month (bipolar 2, rapid cycling).   I actually went to the two (independent) doctors trying to skew their diagnoses away from bipolar because I "knew" depression can be transitory while bipolarity is permanent. While I could immediately make sense of the previous 23 years of my life (and much of my mother's behaviour), I still did nothing about it until, 10 months later I had my worst dysphoria ever.  Then I finally put myself wholeheartedly into managing my situation.

     

    Since then I have spent over 600 hours reviewing peer-reviewed research on bipolar disorder, Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) strategies for managing bipolarity, and published research on the various drugs my medical team has tried.  My father worked in the pharmaceutical industry until I was in my thirties and I knew what kind of tricks they do as well as how much research they undetake.  I also know the combination of my research, experience, training, intelligence level and my 14 years of university put me ahead of most of my doctors and their pharmaceutical-rep-based initial suggestions.

     

    Despite all this, we have yet to find a cocktail of meds that, combined with CBT and IPSRT, manages both poles of my condition.  I simultaneously distrust and appreciate what the pharmaceutical companies are doing and I especially like how much they have raised awareness.  I would rather a few false positive diagnoses occur than, as a previous poster mentioned, have to learn of another unnecessary psychotic or homicidal dysphoria gone worse.

     

    In some respects I feel a greater danger for us superior mood types ;-) if a blood test or brain scan existed.  I encounter enough difficulty getting coverage for my "pre-existing condition" now and most of these meds cost a pretty penny.

     

    How bipolar my post must appear (I appreciate the drug companies; I distrust the drug companies).  Such interesting vagaries this condition intensifies.

  • Anonymous
    K B
    Aug. 16, 2008

    The sad part about having a legitimate medical problem that requires medical treatment in this country  is that the pharmaceutical companies often give the impression that  everyone has the illness.   I have actually had some of the few people I have told - even friends who   are medical professionals  - question the diagnosis of BP...

    RHMLucky777

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    The sad part about having a legitimate medical problem that requires medical treatment in this country  is that the pharmaceutical companies often give the impression that  everyone has the illness.   I have actually had some of the few people I have told - even friends who   are medical professionals  - question the diagnosis of BP 1 that I obviously have, by saying things like "well, everybody gets depressed and manic"  and, my personal favorite,  " those  drugs have terrible  side effects - is  it worth it? " Here is my answer - they keep me well enough to want to live.  I wish there was a blood test for this illness, or a brain scan or something. 

  • Jen
    Jen
    Jul. 08, 2007

    The one that really gets to me is the "new" warning that SSRI's can cause suicide or depression in teens. Give me a break! For the Bi-polars out there, SSRI's can be deadly! I don't care what age you are. Our country is so obsessed with finding mood enhancers that don't actually make you feel good - non addictive. Ask the many folks who have...

    RHMLucky777

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    The one that really gets to me is the "new" warning that SSRI's can cause suicide or depression in teens. Give me a break! For the Bi-polars out there, SSRI's can be deadly! I don't care what age you are. Our country is so obsessed with finding mood enhancers that don't actually make you feel good - non addictive. Ask the many folks who have attempted to get off of these meds if they are addictive! The mis-information out there is apalling. Yes, I am happy that the added publicity is helping remove the stigma. But doctors, especially MD's should be much more educated about the dangers and they should definately warn patients about the side effects to watch for.

  • Jen
    Jen
    Jul. 08, 2007
    The
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Jul. 08, 2007
    Everytime I go to my regular doctor there is always pamplets foe depression meds or bipolar meds in the waiting room. I've read all of them. I would hate to think what it would be like without the medicines, but at the same time I think the pharmaceutical companies jump on whats being talked about at the time. I think bipolar has been talked about more...
    RHMLucky777
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    Everytime I go to my regular doctor there is always pamplets foe depression meds or bipolar meds in the waiting room. I've read all of them. I would hate to think what it would be like without the medicines, but at the same time I think the pharmaceutical companies jump on whats being talked about at the time. I think bipolar has been talked about more since a few famous people came out and told their stories. I think it was brave of them to do that, and bring it out in the public. You can't tell me there's not alot of money being made on the illness of bipolar. My husband takes 6 different medicines a day, and the copay just about kills us. What do people do that doesn't have insurance? Emma
  • Angie
    Jun. 29, 2007
    I would like to see the APA get (take?) better control of this situation. It seems that the tail is wagging the dog here, albeit a very power$ul tail. Otherwise, big pharma will continue its role pimping the docs.

    Angie.
  • Anonymous
    Jane
    Jun. 28, 2007
    I have worked in television in the past, and trust me, they rarely do ANYTHING without an advertiser being somehow connected to it. That doesn't mean the information can't be useful, but it does come from a point of view that needs to be balanced with other points of view before making a decision.

    I'm sorry you had such an awful experience with Cymbalta....
    RHMLucky777
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    I have worked in television in the past, and trust me, they rarely do ANYTHING without an advertiser being somehow connected to it. That doesn't mean the information can't be useful, but it does come from a point of view that needs to be balanced with other points of view before making a decision.

    I'm sorry you had such an awful experience with Cymbalta. For me it has been the source of relief from crippling anxiety.
  • cgoehring78
    Jun. 27, 2007

    I realize it's difficult to show emotion in text, but I'll try anyway. WOWIE! ZOUNDS! YIKES! CARUMBA!


    I remember when pharmaceutical ads first appeared in print and on TV. I couldn't believe it. I turned to my husband with my mouth wide open and hollered something to the effect of the above non-profound cartoon expletives. This was heresy in my mind....

    RHMLucky777

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    I realize it's difficult to show emotion in text, but I'll try anyway. WOWIE! ZOUNDS! YIKES! CARUMBA!


    I remember when pharmaceutical ads first appeared in print and on TV. I couldn't believe it. I turned to my husband with my mouth wide open and hollered something to the effect of the above non-profound cartoon expletives. This was heresy in my mind.


    Skipping past the era of general pain reliever ads, the first DTC (Direct to Consumer) TV ad appeared in 1997 http://www.orthopedictechreview.com/issues/janfeb01/pg30.htm


    with a caveat from the FDA that "they must be balanced and truthful." Whaaa? In addition, they (the medications) "had to disclose the major risks patients would face should they be given the advertised medication."


    I think it was about 5 years later that rumors began popping up stating that drug companies were, in part, owned by advertising agencies, or vice versa. The truth is that according to a November 22, 2002 New York Times article written by Melody Peterson, "Madison Ave. Has Growing Role in the Business of Drug Research," advertising companies such as Omnicom, Interpublic and WPP, all Madison Avenue agencies, "have spent tens of millions of dollars to buy or invest in companies...that perform clinical trials of experimental drugs." see http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9F0DEEDF1239F931A15752C1A9649C8B63


    Connections between articles, TV ads and pharmaceutical promotion isn't new, but it can be definitive for sufferers. Please read this section: "The Invisible Hand
    Courting Doctors With Food and Cash" which you can access in the NYTimes article above.


    This is why it is so important for mental health sufferers and their advocates and caregivers to spend so much time learning about the disease--not just about symptoms and treatments, but about the drugs you take, where they come from, the physicians you are seeing and their degrees and background, the newest research on the disorder, the effects of bipolar on the brain and on your own set of skills and abilities and so on.


    Learn, learn, learn...and never ever give up.

  • su1
    su1
    Jun. 27, 2007

    Yes, I agree, it raises awareness, but on the other hand, I've had a friend come to me saying she thinks she might have bipolar because she goes out dancing all night & then has to rest all the next day. She does have depression, but after a big discussion about what mania really means, she agreed she doesn't have bipolar (and also that she should...

    RHMLucky777

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    Yes, I agree, it raises awareness, but on the other hand, I've had a friend come to me saying she thinks she might have bipolar because she goes out dancing all night & then has to rest all the next day. She does have depression, but after a big discussion about what mania really means, she agreed she doesn't have bipolar (and also that she should perhaps stay away from ecstasy in the future). I cringe at the thought of people self-diagnosing & I feel doctors are generally too easily swayed by the patient's opinions; there needs to be a more methodical set of questions asked for both depression & bipolar to make a proper diagnosis. My doctor did this for me, and I did meet all the criteria for depression, but unfortunately, there were no questions asked about the possibility of bipolar, and I suffered as a consequence, with Zoloft throwing me into psychotic mania a year ago ("Oh I guess she has bipolar & not just depression"). I can look back & see that I had many episodes of hypomania in the past, but now, although the initial incident was med-induces, I now have the capacity to have psychosis, and this really freaks me out. It really upsets me that even with the right diagnosis, I have had some bipolar treatments which have made my condition worse - coincidentally, I was recently put on Seroquel & within days I was suicidal. So we're back to my old meds (Zyprexa, Lamotrigine & small dose of Prozac) and the thought of trying anything new makes me feel like I'm walking through a mine field.



    I think one thing that would help with proper awareness of both depression and bipolar is to stress that everyone can have 'depressed moods', it only hits a clinical level when it accompanies all the physical signs of inability to sleep properly (yet tired all the time), loss of appetite, loss of sex drive, inability to concentrate, etc. Otherwise, I have had a couple people say to me "Oh yeah, I get depressed too" which is so insulting because both clinical depression & bipolar are so much more than the mood.

  • karmas
    Jun. 27, 2007

    I share your cynicism. I have noticed the same marketing today as I did with ADHD several years ago. I agree this information is helpful for physicians as a means of looking at bipolar disorder in their diagnoses. My primary care doctor knew there was something more complicated with my depression and ADHD and sent me to a psychiatrist for a more in-depth look...

    RHMLucky777

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    I share your cynicism. I have noticed the same marketing today as I did with ADHD several years ago. I agree this information is helpful for physicians as a means of looking at bipolar disorder in their diagnoses. My primary care doctor knew there was something more complicated with my depression and ADHD and sent me to a psychiatrist for a more in-depth look at my symptoms.


    As you said we are just a couple of clicks from a pharmaceutical company, but if it weren't for their research, we and our families and friends would be in pretty bad shape. However, it still bugs me.


    Otherwise, having all this marketing has an advantage... we can "come out" because we don't seem like crazy people in the ads. The disadvantage I see is some may think it's the next cool disorder and tend to talk down our pain saying EVERYONE has mood swings.

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jun. 27, 2007
      Karmas - I agree with you 100% about drug company research.

      You made a good point about the ability to "come out" if more people had knowledge of conditions, particularly mental conditions.

      Thanks for your comments.