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Here’s a close-enough transcript:
The world lost a great man last week when Robin Williams died of depression. Whenever a celebrity dies, assholes will use the death as a hook to talk about their pet cause. I’m going to do that right now, because my pet cause is assholes who use the death as a hook to talk about their pet cause.
Considering that Williams died of depression, it’s perfectly reasonable to have an open and honest discussion about the condition, like how it can kill even someone who seems to “have it all,” or someone who seems on the outside to be very happy. It’s a great reason to discuss the incredible frequency of suicides in Williams’ demographic of being an older white upper middle class man and the research that is currently being done to figure out why that is and how we can fix it.
And then we have Rob Schneider, star of Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo, who has used Williams’ death as an opportunity to rail against Big Pharma.
Parkinson’s is a brain disorder that occurs when cells that make dopamine in the brain die off. That’s why the most common psychological symptom of Parkinson’s is depression.
It’s worth noting that suicide attempt isn’t a common side effect of Parkinson’s, possibly because lack of dopamine also reduces a person’s interest in taking risks.
So the medications that treat Parkinson’s are, primarily, ones that either convert to or mimic dopamine in the brain – which, of course, could make patients less depressed.
But because dopamine also increases risk-taking, some of these drugs may also increase impulse control disorders, like hypersexuality and compulsive gambling and, yes, suicidal thoughts.
In a case study published in 2012, doctors described a 54-year old man being treated for Parkinson’s disease with apomorphines who attempted suicide after developing impulse control disorder, psychosis, and depression. They write, “To our knowledge, this is the first case of attempted suicide under apomorphine treatment.”
That’s pretty fucking rare, and so it’s pretty fucking irresponsible to freak out current or future Parkinson’s patients by telling them that the most common treatment for the disease is going to make them kill themselves.
Schneider followed up that Tweet with this one:
It took me ages to dig up the citation on this, as I kept running into conspiracy theory websites and Joseph Mercola articles. Eventually, I found one site that linked to a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the author of that commentary linked to the actual source: Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association 15 years ago.
The first thing you may notice is that this meta analysis concerned hospitalized patients, not the average person on the street, meaning that these were seriously ill people.
Because of that, there are certain risks and benefits to treating seriously ill people. A doctor could understandably make a decision to give a patient a drug that has a low chance of killing them but a high chance of extending or improving their lives – even a low chance means that with enough cases, eventually you will find someone on the losing end of that bet.
But yes, this analysis estimated a mean value of 106,000 fatalities due to ADRs, or adverse drug reactions, or a more conservative lower confidence limit of 76,000 fatalities. Even at the lower number, that is a huge number of people and would rank as the 6th leading cause of death in the US.
It’s a problem that the US needs to solve, and doctors have in the past recommended sweeping changes to the FDA, like beefing up the safety experts on the FDA’s advisory committees and giving the FDA more legal authority to stop violations.
But that’s not what Deuce Bigelow is looking for. He wanted to turn Robin Williams into a hashtag that would benefit his cause, which is preaching the anti-science-based medicine gospel.
Previously, Schneider has spoken out against vaccines, claiming that polio eradicated itself, that vaccines aren’t ever tested, and the government wants you to get autism from vaccines.
With the currently known facts, though, Robin Williams wasn’t murdered by the government or Big Pharma. It appears that he died of a disease that he’s been fighting for a very long time, a complicated and little-understood disease that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are attempting to cure. Like polio, depression doesn’t just eradicate itself – as much as our medical industry needs to change, it’s not going to happen by spreading damaging misinformation.