June 26, 2011
Contrary to popular belief that Abilify is simply an ‘add-on’ to antidepressants, it is really an antipsychotic, initially used to treat schizophrenia and acute instances of mania. Now, in addition to what that cute, illustrated commercial tells you about this Rx, it is also often prescribed as a maintenance drug for bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist recently upped the dosage of my Abilify because of this reemergence of hypomania/mixed state. Knowing that it’s a drug created in Japan (which obviously makes it totally safe….), I agreed and have been taking double my previous dose since last week. I didn’t even bother to think that much about the potential additional side effects, but then, I came across an article on CNN.com/Health.com titled “Long-Term Use of Bipolar Drug Questioned,” written by Lynne Peeples.
According to the article, the medical research does not appear to justify the widespread use of Abilify for maintenance therapy, says psychiatrist Alexander C. Tsai, M.D., one of the lead authors of the review published in the “PLoS Medicine” journal and a visiting researcher at Harvard University. “We failed to find sufficient data to support its use.” Apparently, the safety of Abilify is based on a single study that may be flawed—-especially for a medication that is advertised to work in the long-run. That trial had several important limitations, according to Tsai and his coauthors. For one, they say, it may have been too short to judge the drug’s true effectiveness in preventing mood swings over the long term. The first phase of the trial lasted for 26 weeks, and less than one-fifth of the participants went on to complete the 48-week follow-up phase.
Great. So, no one in the scientific community really knows what could happen to us if we keep taking Abilify? Isn’t that a little disturbing? I’m not honestly a bit scared to keep taking this drug. In the back of my mind, I do think about the fact that I might want to have a baby someday, and whether taking Abilify could harm the fetus. The article did say that the FDA is going to look into this finding, but in the mean time, I get to play the guinea pig.
March 2, 2011
Illustrations interest me, because I enjoy design and I also used to be an editorial cartoonist. So when I saw that the new Abilify commercial (see above) was an animated illustration, my curiosity was piqued, but not just because it involves no real people, but more by the company’s decision to ‘use’ certain ‘people’ in its commercial even though it’s an illustration. After all, as someone involved in studying sociology, I, by nature, start dissecting parts of , well, anything, including this ad.
It seems that the featured character of this advertisement is, as usual, a white female. We later find that she is also married and is a mother. I understand that the company (Bristol Myers-Squibb/Otsuka) would tailor the commercial to their target audience, but why does the main character–and its family (not to mention the doctor), always have to be white? In a way, the company is making an assumption that people who can actually afford this drug tend to be white (and in a ‘stable’ family household), because a 30-day, 10mg supply costs $600 retail. And why does the main character always seem to be a mom? I’m not pointing this stuff out just because I’m not white or a mom; I’m just happening to see a long trend in psychiatric medication ads that have consistently featured a white mother as the one needing these medications. Are moms in need of more psychiatric medication than others?
Another thing I noticed about the commercial was the placement of the “black blob.” Even after she takes Abilify and gets all better, the black blob shrinks but still seem to be hanging around. What does this mean? Does it mean that depression never really goes away, that it will always be hovering around her, just waiting to claim her livelihood again? It’s kind of a depressing thought to realize that once you become depressed, you’re never fully recovered.
I have nothing against Abilify—I take the darn thing. But advertisements for it and other meds intrigue me. At least it’s not that creepy wind-up doll that Lexapro uses on their ads….
Update: Cartoonbrew.com listed the credits to this commercial illustration. Thanks!
Director: Neil Boyle
Animators: Mike Shorten, Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor.
Assistant animators: Alan Henry, Ange de Silva and Ed Roberts.
July 1, 2010
So, am I getting depressed because I stopped taking Abilify or is this just grief? According to Dr. L, my psychologist, she thinks it’s grief. But according to Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, he think it’s because of my lapse from Abilify.Which expert opinion should I trust more? I don’t really know.
Today was the day for my monthly electroconvulsive therapy. There was nothing all that interesting about the experience except that Dr. F was pretty certain that I needed to go back on Abilify. And that a bunch of students from somewhere got to watch me have ECT. I always wonder what it’s like to watch people have this treatment. How does it feel to be watching a procedure happen that has such stigma attached to it? I personally would like to watch it happen one day….
My mind feels clear now that it’s over, albeit a little nauseous. It did take me two hours to realize that I was currently enrolled in school. I guess I should call Dr. A, my usual psychiatrist, to write me a prescription for Abilify.
June 27, 2010
a possible slow digression back to depression? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ve kind of ‘forgotten’ to take Abilify for the last week or so, and in that week, I’ve become increasingly tired. Am I just tired or is something wrong with me? The problem with having a diagnosed mental illness is that sometimes, you can’t really tell what’s just a normal emotional state. When I cry over something, I’m having to wonder whether it’s just a normal reaction or if I’m getting depressed.
This is one of those moments. I feel a sense of uneasiness, perhaps because I shouldn’t have stopped taking one of the meds in the first place, but also because I don’t know what to make of how I’m feeling. This becomes a bit of a problem this week because when I have ECT in a few days, my doctor is sure to ask me how I’ve been feeling –and if I tell the truth, there’s always that chance that I’m going to get told that I’ll have to have ECT more often. Maybe this tiring feeling is coming on because the ECT is wearing out since the last time I had it.
Maybe I’m just tired and I’m just worried over no reason.
This experience still makes me ask myself: What emotions are controlled by meds, and what are controlled solely by me? Can I separate those two things anymore?
May 4, 2009
Bristol-Myers Squibb, distributors of Abilify, does have a Patient Assistance Foundation which has programs that one can apply to get help in paying for Abilify. The direct link to the Abilify assistance application PDF is here. (An interesting fact: Abilify is made in Japan by a Japanese company Otsuka.)
While we’re on the subject of Big Pharmas helping out with paying for their drugs, here are some other links if you need help with other drugs:
April 2, 2009
“If your anti-depressant only isn’t enough, Ask your doctor about Abilify,” says that soothing male voice on that commercial about Abilify, a drug that was approved for add-on treatment for major depression in 2008. Suppose your doctor does say, “Abilify may be right for you!, then the starting dosage that s/he probably wrote on that little piece of Rx paper should be between 2-5mg. That is the recommended starting dosage when taking Abilify as an adjuvant treatment.
The advertisement makes it look as though the working mother or the Union dad could go back to work again feeling fine once they get this help. But at what cost, financially speaking?
$485.95. That’s the cash price for a 30-Days worth of Abilify at 2mg. The price obviously goes up as the dosage is raised.
If you have health insurance with prescription benefits, congratulations! You will likely just pay the copay that is significantly less than the face value. But we are not all insured. In a time when over 40 million Americans are uninsured and who knows how many are under-insured, will they even be able to afford Abilify, even if this is exactly what works for them? The hope that there is a treatment out there to help you flashes over and over again on screen. Yet this mere possibility itself may be attainable to you only if you have the financial ability first.
Perhaps that voice-over guy in the commercial should say a little disclaimer: We’re sorry. If you are not insured, this advertisement does not concern you, unless you’d like to trade in your house payments for these little green pills.
March 26, 2009
Though I commented in an entry last week how much I did not like Abilify, it seems that time has come for me to give it a second chance.
I need to find another mood stabilizer for the long haul. Though there are many on the market, weight gain is a huge side effect in a lot of them. A good personal example: I gained what equaled to about 20-25% of the initial body weight within the first three months that I took Depakote. Since it’s been six years since the first Abilify and ECT sometimes changes the way one reacts to medication, I’ve agreed to try Abilify at 1mg per day.
So, Abilify really is my Abilify for the week. Dr. A (my great Dr. Melfi) and I are trying to assess my response to the ECT -and whether a maintenance ECT (one little spark each month) should be an option to consider in the long term.
March 19, 2009
There’s been a TV commercial running where this person says that s/he’s been taking antidepressants but not all of his/her symptoms have been alleviated. The narrator then suggests that they should ask their doctor if s/he could add Abilify to their drug regimen. I would be tempted to ask my doctor for this seemingly miracle drug, too, except I was prescribed Abilify six years ago when it was only labeled as an anti-schizophrenic. Within hours of taking it, I almost collapsed at work. I hate this drug (for me; I’m genuinely glad for anyone who has had success with it), and these TV spots and their print ads remind me just how horrible I felt that day I took that medication.
Nonetheless, this week so far is making me wish that Abilify was right for me. But I’ve found a temporary non-prescribed antidepressant add-on for the week: David Frum and the elliptical. I finally got to read that article in Newsweek written by David Frum about why Rush Limbaugh is not the answer to their party’s current problems. It was so well-written, so much so that in fact, David Frum’s arguments made me think for a moment that maybe I could join the conservatives. Then again, I’ve been infatuated with Tucker Carlson for a long time, but I am an actual card-carrying Dem.
I will also admit that I’m starting to understand why people are into exercising regularly. I still might be using that elliptical time only so I can catch up on some reading, but those 30 minutes do feel pretty good during that time.