There are many drugs today advertised on TV for mental health issues: Cymbalta for depression, Abilify for Bipolar Disorder, and now Seroquel for Bipolar Depression. Have you seen the advertisement from AstraZeneca? People who are bipolar depressed are shown semi-dissolved into their backgrounds. A woman standing in front of a theatre marquee is half transparent such that the advertisement can be seen behind her. Another woman sits on a couch with grid fabric. The grid shows through her. What is this ad trying to tell us? Are we only half there when we are depressed? If so, then taking Seroquel the ad would imply brings you back into the fullness of yourself. But does Seroquel do this? There are those who have experienced the drug who say the reality is quite different. Seroquel makes you feel half there, “out of it” so to speak. To be on Seroquel is to be half aware; to live sedated in a kind of limbo of altered consciousness.
I was one of those who experienced Quetipine Fumarate – the actual pharmaceutical name of the brand name Seroquel – this way. Seroquel made me lethargic. I felt as if a giant hand were holding me down keeping me from who I was. It was as if an enormous psychic blanket had been placed over me muffling all my responses to the world around me. I was calm, but inwardly dead. The capacity for compassion, love, enthusiasm, or real joy diminished to the point of nothingness. Yet I wasn’t depressed anymore. I had become a zombie.
The description of sedation as a prominent side effect of the drug is very apt, but also misleading. Recognized as the most sedating of all the antipsychotic drugs, Seroquel makes you more than merely sleepy, it produces a state of otherness. Seroquel produces a state of extreme calm, which verses on the comatose. A zombie replaced the real me. It is this state on non-self that another prominent side effect of Seroquel manifests itself. Suicidal thoughts come to the user. Life lived in an insulated bubble of non-feeling and non-caring, seems hardly worthwhile. Therefore suicidal thought which arose during the mania and depression experienced before the drug, come into play on the drug. It is a nasty circular series of thoughts. Is this the kind of reaction that should be possible on a drug heavily advertised on Television? I think not.
This is the real question I have. Should advertising a drug as powerful, with as many side effects -some of them lethal- as Seroquel be done on TV? The media makes the drug appear as safe and acceptable as aspirin simply by its regular occurrence. AstraZeneca makes itself appear as a great benefactor even as the warning labels are announced on advertisement. The warnings are off-hand and dismissed as rare occurrences that should not discourage the use of the drug. AstraZeneca is even such a good corporate patron, that they will help you get this drug even if you can’t afford it. We are not told about huge volume of sales of this drug, which was more than 3 billion dollars a year in 2006. We are not told how further usage will only increase the high profitability of this already highly profitable drug.
There exists opposition to Seroquel’s pervasive usage. Law firms are suing the pharmaceutical company over the prescription of the drug, which they say is more harmful to the user than even personality change and a possibility of suicidal thought. Howard L. Nations, Attorneys at law in Texas, are suing AstraZenca over the drug’s side effect of extreme weight gain – an all too common side effect, which I experienced also- that leads to diabetes. Perhaps if the Nations video showing how Seroquel usage leads from becoming fat to the disease of diabetes were shown on television subsequent to the AstraZenca ad, there would be some balance in the media between the promoters and the protesters.
My position is clear, I am cynical about and opposed to these advertisements. These big pharmaceutical companies are the biggest drug pushers in the country and they do it legally. Personally I think the local crack dealer is more reliable and trust worthy. We know it all about profit to local pusher. AstraZeneca wraps itself in the cloak of social responsibility and concern, when the bottom line is profit. How many people can you hook on this psycho-active drug? How many doctors can you fool with your claims of a miracle break through against depression? Yes, I would agree there is a need for these drugs, but they need to be handled very carefully and not just distributed like so much candy. Here take this it will improve your depression. Little do you know what the experienced effect of Seroquel is until you have gained thirty pounds, felt like a wet blanket, and wondering if live is worthwhile. Or maybe you will get TD (tartive dyskinesa) which is the uncontrollable moment of the face, the tongue, or other body part. This is an effect which may not go away after use is stopped. AstraZeneca doesn’t tell this. It’s not good for Seroquel’s bottom line.