The Black Cloud in Silver Linings Playbook: Pharma Product Placement in Film

January 29, 2013 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) announces the latest article by investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O'Meara, which questions whether the motion picture industry has become the newest outlet for pharmaceutical product advertising.

Kelly O'Meara gives the example of the recently released Silver Linings Playbook, where, in an apparent attempt to legitimize the alleged mental illness bipolar disorder as a medical condition, and also convince the audience that psychiatric medication is the necessary treatment, the film not only specifically mentions Seroquel but also provides a close up of the actual pill.

O'Meara states, "While the brief shot of the antipsychotic, Seroquel, is almost subliminal, the fact that the pill is given a close up, clearly revealing the name of the drug, is unmistakably purposeful. In the context of this film, the intent of the shot, of course, is to reinforce that the antipsychotic drug will 'treat' the alleged mental disorder and the main character will be 'better.' The problem with being seen as promoting specific psychiatric drugs like Seroquel is that the information about a particular drug is cherry-picked and, depending on the films intended message, important life and death information is withheld."

Some of the important facts that make up the Seroquel back-story which O'Meara details in the article include:

  • AstraZeneca, the makers of Seroquel have paid $1.25 billion in criminal settlements, judgments and civil penalties as a result of federal and state investigations and consumer fraud lawsuits for the company's "off-label" promotion of the drug and serious medical injury caused by the drug. And the problems surrounding Seroquel have a long sordid history.

  • Between 1997 and 2012, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, received nearly 50,000 Adverse Event Reports, AER's, regarding Seroquel, with 30,000 of them identifying the drug as the primary suspect causing the event. During the same time period, the FDA AER's reveal that 5,974 or 12% of the events ended in death and 2,583 or 9% of the deaths targeted Seroquel as the primary suspect. While these numbers should be of concern to anyone considering taking the drug, the FDA further acknowledges that the AER's represent only 1 to 10 percent of the actual adverse events.

  • Among the adverse effects associated with Seroquel are: diabetes mellitus, excessive weight gain, a number of coronary problems including heart failure or sudden death, hallucinations, psychosis, paranoid reactions, delusions, manic reaction, depersonalization, catatonic reaction , abnormal thinking and dreams and delirium.

  • "Unlike pharmaceutical advertising through print or television, drug warnings and adverse event information is not yet required for film. Certainly one may call it artistic license, but the power of film should not be understated when dealing with controversial mental health issues and seriously dangerous psychiatric mind-altering drugs." writes O'Meara.

    The audience is not made aware of the financial relationships between psychiatrists, who conduct drug studies, and the pharmaceutical industry. "A 4,000 percent increase in a psychiatric diagnosis like bipolar disorder does not happen by accident and there is ample evidence to support a very cozy psycho/pharma collusion," she says.

    O'Meara provides the example of Joseph Biederman, M.D., a Harvard University professor, a leading child psychiatrist and the most prominent advocate of the alleged childhood bipolar disorder. Between 2000 and 2007, Biederman received $1.6 million dollars from pharmaceutical companies, yet had only reported earning $200,000. But it is Biederman's "research" that really is at issue. Because Biederman was paid by pharmaceutical companies to cheerlead the use of their antipsychotic drugs at the same time he is promoting the bipolar diagnosis, it makes his "research" utterly invalid. But none of this information makes it to the silver screen and the myth of bipolar disorder and antipsychotic drug "treatment" is neatly packaged as a love story. Unfortunately the real world isn't so neat and for an ever-increasing number of people, their real-life screenplays read more like mental health horror stories.

    O'Meara states, "But happy endings sell tickets so Silver Linings Playbook skips the real-life Seroquel horror stories happening all around us and replaces them with a Hollywood happy ending. As we approach the final scenes of the film, the lead character credits his recovery to taking the drug saying 'I have a positive attitude. I'm on medication, I'm in therapy.' You just can't buy this kind of advertising…or can you? If advocating psychiatric drug use through film is the newest form of advertising for the pharmaceutical industry, one has to ask if it isn't time to add a new code to the motion picture rating system…something along the lines of 'PD' for 'Strong Prescription Drug Content.'"

    Kelly Patricia O'Meara is a book author and former award winning investigative reporter for the Washington Times, Insight Magazine. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O'Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.

    Click here to read the full article.

    About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.