BMS and Abilify Emerge Mostly Unbruised in Fight With Professional Patient Andy Behrman

Last Updated May 14, 2009 10:07 AM EDT

Bristol-Myers Squibb's non-disclosure agreement with professional bipolar disorder patient Andy Behrman expired in January (as BNET noted last December) and, as expected, Behrman has come out of his corner full of allegations about how awful BMS's promotion of Abilify is.

Except that many of Behrman's punches seem to be landing on himself. In a must-read story in the WSJ today, Behrman comes off like an embittered prostitute, angry at the pimp who no longer procures her tricks.

The story details how Behrman's bipolarity ruined his life:
According to his memoir, he spent time as a stripper, swindled friends and family out of thousands of dollars for a film project he never completed, and ran an art forgery scheme that cost him five months in prison.
Then he was contacted by a BMS executive who had read Behrman's first book, Electroboy, about how Behrman had tried to treat his disorder with electroshock therapy. Over a period of two years, BMS paid him $400,000 as a professional patient to speak publicly about how Abilify stabilized his life with minimal side effects:
He says he told the same story: that he had been stable on other medications but didn't like their side effects, and had switched to Abilify and experienced none.
That wasn't the truth, he says now. Within weeks of taking Abilify, Mr. Behrman says he felt stiffness and agitation in his legs. He says Abilify clouded his thinking. He now says the drug made him feel worse than any treatment he has tried.
In order to get rid of the side effects, Behrman asked BMS to increase his pay to $7.5 million, the WSJ reports. (Behrman denies he did this, but BMS has an email to back its case.)

BMS declined to pay Behrman the $7.5 million. Then, after BNET and others noted that Behrman's non-disclosure with BMS was about to expire and that Behrman had a new book coming out, he asked for hush money, the WSJ alleges:
Then in January, his lawyer says they approached Bristol-Myers with another proposal, in which Mr. Behrman wouldn't talk about his experiences if the company wouldn't interfere with his attempts to get speaking engagements. Bristol-Myers says Mr. Behrman was seeking compensation, and it declined that offer, too.
Now Berhman has dedicated the next portion of his career to promoting his book, and to bashing Abilify's side effects:
He says he feels people should know about the side effects of Abilify, as well as the extensive marketing that went into making the drug a success.
So, to sum up: When Behrman was being paid by BMS to tout Abilify, he touted Abilify. When BMS declined to pay him, he criticizes Abilify.

More seriously, there's a lesson here for drug companies and the doctors who work with them. Paying patients to tell their stories includes an obvious risk: They will tell the story you want to hear until you stop paying them, and no one will hear the truth until it is too late.

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