And you thought high blood-sugar was dangerous…


And you thought high blood-sugar was dangerous… Meds for Diabetes Type 2: Reduce your blood-sugar levels and life expectancy. There have been over 83,000 Heart Attack Deaths from Avandia.

For more info see Dr. David Healy’s post: Swimming with Great Whites? If you’ve got “Diabetes” look away now.

Put-Me-to-Sleep Pills


My poster for Dr. David Healy’s post “Marilyn’s Curse” about medication, Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), and the way medical research uses “randomization” to hide dangerous side effects.

See More: Marilyn’s Curse

Pills of Hope


My Portrait of Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), as Frankenstein. for Dr David Healy’s post, Brand Fascism, which tells the story how pharmaceutical marketing seems to be perverting, or limiting, the power of medical science, because it places the interests of corporate investors, before the health of their customers.

“The 100,000 people who work for GSK are just like you, right? I’m sure everybody who reads the BMJ has friends who work for drug companies. They’re normal people… Many of them are doctors”. Sir Andrew Witty


Glaxo Buys Open Science

Glaxo Buys Open Science. Patents Sharing. Promises Full Access. In a surprise move, drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced a secret takeover of Open Science Federation for a purchase price rumored to be almost $500,000 USD. GSK CEO, Sir Andrew Witty, said that the takeover was part of a strategic response by the company to release all its clinical trial data. With questioning, Witty admitted that he, and the company’s board of directors, were initially resistant to the suggestion they should “open the kimono”, and show their jewels. However, with many voices calling for openness, and wincing from  a $3 billion USD fine for illegally promoting antidepressants to children, the company decided to look at the idea of openness more closely.“When we realized how little money there was in Open Science ... well, that was when the light went on.” Within the company, the Open Science take-over was pitched as the perfect, cost-effective, solution to their current woes. By buying the whole kit and caboodle, GSK could refurbish its image as a good corporate citizen, prop up its sagging stock price, and most importantly find a way to meet the public demands for the sharing of its data, without sharing anything at all. “Open Science is perfect for GSK. But we’re bringing something to the table too. Our patented Sharing Information Technology System (ShITs), will completely turn things upside down in the open science community.

Illustration for Dr. David Healy‘s post about the vagaries of diving, fishing and looking for real data in the murky world medicine and pharmaceuticals.

See: April Fool in Harlow: Anecdote Fishing in Harlow

And sure, this is an “April Fool’s” thing, but it’s actually based on some truth… If you want to find out more about the GSK approach to “Open Science” and the “sharing” of research data, you can actually sign up for the GSK Clinical Study data program. Once you’ve signed off off on their legal stuff (caveat emptor), you can request access to their trial data. Currently they have about 220 trials listed… a extremely small fraction of the total trials they’ve done. Your request will be reviewed by independent panel who will decide whether or not you can actually see the data. No promises of course! But why don’t you give it a try… I’ve signed up! ;-)


Posters: OpenGSK.pdf, OpenGSK.jpg or OpenGSK.png.

You And Your Meds: Are they Safe?

David Healy, Terence Young, Sholom Glouberman, and Billiam James at 'You And Your Meds', RxISK at AGO. Photos Franke James

“You And Your Meds: Are They Safe?” was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario on January 15th. It was sold-out public event sponsored by and the Patients’ Association of Canada, which featured presentations by Terence Young, Dr. David Healy and Dr. Sholom Glouberman on prescription drug safety. I was delighted to show six of my “pillustrated” canvases. It was great to meet everyone and share our stories…

You And Your Meds: Are They Safe?
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON M5T 1G4

Terence Young, Canadian MP and author of Death by Prescription
Dr. David Healy, founder and author of Pharmageddon
Dr. Sholom Glouberman, President of the Patients’ Association of Canada and author of My Operation

Photos by Franke James. Thank you!

The Doctor’s Nightmare (from Fildes)

The Doctor's Nightmare (from Fildes) Thalidomide & Zoloft, 2012 © Billiam James

Revisiting Luke Fildes painting, the Doctor, with a ghost of Matt Miller, who at 13 year was fatally medicated with Zoloft, while the voodoo from a MHRA/FDA continues to confound our doctors.

Read Dr David Healy‘s metaphorical story about the state of modern medicine:
The girl who was not heard when she cried wolf

How Not to Quit Smoking

How Not to Quit Smoking: Champix, Chantix or Varenicline. Created by Billiam James

Samantha’s Story (Excerpts)

My story begins in January 2008, when I was running three times a week and training at kick-boxing. I had changed my diet and everything to get fit, even had my cholesterol checked. I was fit as a person could be. The only thing wrong was the smoking… So I went with my mum to the local stop-smoking clinic where we got to see the person who goes through your options.

Champix: “A Wonder Drug”
I was expecting to be offered Nicotine Replacement Patches but they kept going on about Champix and how it would work well for me. They made it out to be a wonder drug. I said I’d give it a try. I had to go to my own doctor to get the prescription for Champix (Chantix, Varenicline). I started to take the tablets the next day. I thought they were great. I didn’t want a cigarette after a few days and no side effects. By week two I had stopped smoking.

Champix: “I felt like killing myself”
When I got to week 10 of a 12 week course, all of a sudden, I felt like killing myself. This was completely out of character for me. I am scared of dying, always have been, so this was not right. I went straight to my doctor and told her and she told me to stop the Champix…

I stopped immediately. The thoughts went away after a few days. I thought I was fine and was still not smoking.

Champix: “A Small Risk of Seizure”
Then on the 25th March 2008 my partner Anthony woke up to me having a grand mal seizure in my sleep… I was told they thought I had autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy – ADNFLE to them… I was put on anti-epileptic drugs. I had side-effects from all of them and I was still having seizures. I just kept being told that it was all about finding the right drug for me.

Then a friend came round to see me and told me that he had just been to the smoking clinic to ask for Champix. He had taken it twice before and stopped smoking both times but had always started again within a month. This time they refused to give it to him as he had a history of a head injury and they said there was a small risk of him having a seizure because of that.

Champix: A Doctor’s Denial
Angrily I got the laptop out and looked to see if the Champix side-effects leaflet had been changed to mention seizures. It had not in the UK but it was in Canada. So I asked my neurologist if Champix could have triggered my epilepsy. Her words: “I am not prepared to put my job on the line by answering that question” were witnessed by my mum. That made me angrier. This is my life – how dare she say that.

My side-effects got worse. I could not eat or function. I told the neurologist I could not live like this for the rest of my life. She shouted at me, saying my choice was side-effects or life-threatening seizures. I ran out crying…

Champix: Finding the Truth
From that day, I have studied epilepsy, drugs, DNA, the brain, RNA and, most important, Champix… I have found links to ADNFLE and Parkinsons and other diseases that might be triggered in some people by Champix… It turns out that changes in cholinergic receptors – in either a4 or b2 subunits – can cause autosomal dominant nocturnal epilepsy. Varenicline is an a4 b2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist – it works by binding to the receptors linked to ADNFLE. The gene changes responsible are the first, and to date only, mutations described in an idiopathic epilepsy.

Read Samantha’s full story on Smoke & Pfizer get in your eyes

Follow Samantha on Twitter: @varenicline

Related Research Papers:

Shipwrecked by the Cure

Shipwrecked by the Cure. Created by Billiam James

Dr David Healy writes that “The unsolvable problem medicine faces is that each of us is shipwrecked in the singular.” We are abandoned, floating alone in a health care system that has been trussed in guidelines, and narrow-minded “quality improvement programs”, and an incredibly bureaucratic management pot.

Our only hope is that the basic humanity of people in the system will assert itself. That the doctors, nurses, and support staff will start to look at their “clients”, not as units to be processed, but as individual human beings who need to be listened to, respected and treated with personal care.

Read Dr David Healy’s complete post: The Shipwreck of the Singular

Betting Your Brains on Antidepressants

Effexor: Betting your Brains on Antidepressants? Billiam James

“Uninhibited behaviours” is listed as a possible side effect for Effexor by it’s manufacture, Pfizer. But what is uninhibited behavior? Is it problematic? Well, yes… According to Pfizer, compulsive gambling and sexual misconduct are covered by the term, “uninhibited behaviours”.

A warning… But is it enough? A patient responds:

“How am I supposed to know what an ‘uninhibited behaviour’ was?” he said. “What a cloaking of an evil thing is that? That could be me parachuting or hang gliding or running down the beach with Speedos on! How was I to know it was going to be the type of addictive behaviours that would ruin my life?”

Efexor, first introduced to the American market in 1993, is now well established as one of Australia’s most commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications with more than 1.2 million prescriptions serviced in Australia in the past 12 months. At low and moderate doses, it acts only on the brain’s mood control neurotransmitters, serotonin and norephinephrine. But at high doses of over 300mg a day it also effects a third neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is responsible for reward-driven behaviours and has been associated with risk-taking behaviour and addiction.

It’s this dopamine effect that can cause problems, according to world-renowned psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist and author Dr David Healy. “When Efexor is taken at high dosages it triggers a flood of dopamine and becomes what we call a ‘dopamine agonist’. This can be responsible for the types of dangerous impulsive behaviours.”

Read the full story on Gambling With Antidepressants

I’m medicating you because I love you…

Sympathy & Pills: I'm medicating you because I love you

One of the hardest things for people, who suffer from illnesses/disabilities, is getting good information and support. The health care system doesn’t seem to provide it, and so many of us join community support groups where we can share our experiences and support each other. (I go to Epilepsy Toronto and know many who use Fluoroquinolone support groups. The FQ groups are certainly not supported by any Pharmas, but my epilepsy group gets funds from UCB, the people who sell us Keppra and Vimpat.)

The pharmaceutical industry is very aware of this, and lends their financial muscle to support all kinds of community support groups — particularly if group members are potential “customers” for their meds. And this can create a Conflict of Interest, and subvert the group’s mission to serve its members.

This appears to be what has happened to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My friend Julie Wood, a suicide survivor, decided to attend a local support group this month, only to find that they were promoting medications as the only way to reduce suicide risk, and trying very hard to ignore the well-documented links between suicide risk and psychiatric meds.

What I find particularly bad about this practice, is that pharmaceutical industry is preying on the weak and sick, offering them hope (a pill?) wrapped in sympathy and support, when in fact they don’t seem to care about whether the medication works or not, or whether it actually helps the patient…

Read Julie’s full story on (Data Based Medicine):

The Myth of Floxing

Fluoroquinolone: The Myth of Floxing

Fluoroquinolone: The Truth of Floxing

The Myth of Floxing
We all like to believe that medicines work like a single magic dart that’s focused and targeted on the primary therapeutic effect.

But with most drugs, it’s more like you shooting yourself with hundreds of poisoned arrows. Some hit the target, but many, many others will hit and attack other parts of your body’s vital systems — some of which, as first glance, seem to be completely unrelated.

The Fluoroquinolones class of drugs may be the worst offenders that have ever been approved by the FDA. Branded with names like Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox, they provide a horrific example of how a medicine can cripple and affect every system in the body. And what’s worse, the side effects causes by Fluoroquinolones do not end when you stop taking the drug, leaving many people crippled for years, and even decades after taking just one pill. Read more about this in Dr. David Healy’s post on The Myth of the Magic Bullet: Flox Tox

The idea behind the illustration: When Venus (by Bouguereau) takes Levaquin (by Ortho-McNeil), she gets transformed into St Sebastian (by Il Sodoma) and martyred with a thousand arrows.

About Fluoroquinolones: by the Quinolone Vigilance Foundation

Quinolones (fluoroquinolones) are a class of antibiotics that are currently one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in the world, given out in hundreds, if not thousands, of prescriptions daily. They are very powerful medications prescribed to treat a wide variety of infections but were never meant to be used as a first line of defense against routine infections, which is how they are often prescribed today. Like all antibiotics, quinolones, have the ability to cause side effects. However, what differentiates this class of antibiotics from others is that quinolones can cause severe adverse reactions that can disable the healthiest of individuals creating long lasting injuries.

For more info on Fluoroquinolones visit: Quinolone Vigilance Foundation

If your doctor is recommending a Fluoroquinole class antibiotic, read these victim survivor stories before taking even one pill: The Fluoroquinolone Wall of Pain

The Artist’s Interactive Toolbox

Computer Crash

A message for interactive artists from the Harvard Business Review. You’re art is competing with fridges! So if you want people to look at, you’d better make it smart…

Your paintbox should include these tools:

  1. Microprocessors: Your art is competing with the phones, computers and even refrigerators. Make it smart. Put a computer chip in it. (Arduino!)
  2. Sensors: Motion detection. Location detection. Face recognition. Sensors are cheap. Use them to make your stuff responsive.
  3. Wireless Connectivity: Make it social. Make it mobile. Make it work anywhere.
  4. Databases: Store the data. Then turn the data into a story.

See the Harvard Business Review: The Four Technologies You Need to Be Working With by Adam Richardson

Social entrepreneurs go Hollywood: The promise of change in 25 words or less

You're the only person who listens

(It’s pretty hard to change the world, if no one wants to follow your thinking…)

Curtis Faith has been asking us all about stories. What is your story? Who is the hero? How will it end?

Good questions, because stories provide a powerful framework for spreading ideas. This is especially true if your ideas are different, challenging, and could seen by ordinary folk as a little bit “too newfangled for practical application”.

Randy Olson, the scientist-turned-filmmaker, regularly lambastes the academic/science community for getting so caught up in the pointy-headed details that they completely forget how real communication happens. Randy is the author of the wickedly brilliant and funny Don’t be Such a Scientist.

Also take a look at the work by Alex (Sandy) Petland, the author of Honest Signals.

Yet most scientists (and other big idea people) don’t get it. Despite the fact that there’s tons of “peer-approved” research demonstrating that what you say (the details) is NOT nearly as important as how you say it (your communication style!).

The thing is, if you want to move your idea from the edge into the mainstream, from the future to the present, you have to package it. Style it. Make it easy-to-get and attractive.

This is not the same thing as dumbing it down. It is more about upping the drama, raising the stakes, and making it personal! It’s all about creating emotional resonance.

That’s why, especially for the “issue entrepreneurs”, stories are the key to changing the world…

And no one is better at telling stories (that move a big audiences) than Hollywood. So maybe we should drop our guard, and our biases, and steal a few tricks from tinsel-town. Well, I have two favorite screen-writing books, Raindance Writers’ Lab by Elliot Groves, and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Both writers pull apart, and dissect the Hollywood story to show us how they are made. Here is a summary of the key components.

Hollywood Story:

  • Hero: A person on the brink of change, who realizes that the status quo is not sustainable.
  • Problem: The hero’s problem. It needs to be personal. It needs to be urgent. And the stakes need to be high.
  • Goal: The hero must have a single goal. The hero’s plans (the way they try to solve the problem) may change, but the goal never changes. When the hero achieves the goal, the story is over.
  • Flaw: The hero must have a personal flaw — ideally a psychological or moral weakness — that they must recognize and deal with, before they can achieve their goal. This flaw often points to the “theme”, or moral of the story.
  • Enemy: The hero needs an enemy who wants to stop the hero from achieving their goal. The more powerful and dangerous the enemy the better. And the closer the enemy is to the hero the better — both in terms of relationship and in terms of psychological make-up. The enemy is often the mirror image of the hero where the “flaw” has become the primary driver.
  • Action: The basic action that drives the story forward needs to be consistent with the hero’s character
  • Struggle: The hero must try and fail to solve the problem. Repeatedly. The hero learns something from each failure, and modifies the plan, getting closer and closer to dealing with core issue.
  • Disaster: Before the story ends, the hero needs to fail big-time. What Blake Snyder calls the “All is lost” moment, when the hero is worse off than when they started, and is pretty much ready to give up.
  • A Happy Ending: The hero overcomes their limitations, reaches the goal, and realizes their full potential.

Both Elliot and Snyder insist that writers figure out how to tell the story in just one or two sentences (the 25-word pitch) before working on any details. Why? Because it focuses the story and helps you figure out if it’s any good — before you get bogged down (for months!) in the details.

Going Hollywood With Your Story

Which brings us to the real challenge of this post. Can you take your big idea for positive social change, turn it into a Hollywood story, and then cram it into a 25-word pitch?

Given that all stories are really about character transformation — personal change — it is not surprising that the Hollywood story components closely fits with the social entrepreneur. Here is how the key story components can match up with a program for social change:

  • Hero: Your Customer
  • Goal: What your customer wants
  • Enemy: Whoever, or whatever, is stopping your customer from getting what they want — the status quo:
  • Struggle: What your customers learn or get from your product that helps them overcome the old limitations — your product features.
  • A Happy Ending: The new world order where your customers have transformed themselves using your service.

Is this too crass with the Hollywood ending? Not if you’re promising to change the world for the better.

Too corny with a hero? Not if you’re trying to help people with serious challenges. And not if you’re trying to engender personal responsibility.

Too formulaic? Well yes, it’s a template — a formula. But the final result, the final story, really depends on you and the uniqueness of your idea. The closer it is to your heart, the better it will be.

Okay, let’s fit these story parts into 25-word template for the social entrepreneur. The promise of change in 25 words or less…

The Template: 

A flawed hero [Your Customer]
Urgently needing change [Customer Needs]
Overcomes huge obstacles and powerful enemies [Established Limitations]
And learns how to open the door [Product Feature]
To a happy ending. [Product Benefit]

Writing the 25 words is really just a word game. But if it helps focus your thinking — and spread your idea — it’s probably worth playing.

Bottom-line: If we’re going to change things, we’re going to have to enlist, engage, and enroll people from outside our circles. Stories are a great way to do that.

Does social mirroring lead to bostitution? Please like this…

I like your new hair-cut!

Want to get “in” with the In-crowd? Trying mirroring their body language and facial expressions.

Facial expressions of emotion (FEE) are universal, but even small social groups develop their own “private” vocabulary of non-verbal messaging and social cues. Check out these papers by Steven G. Young and Kurt Hugenberg from Tufts and Miami University.:

Mere social categorization modulates identification of facial expressions of emotion

“The ability of the human face to communicate emotional states via facial expressions is well known… However, recent evidence has revealed that facial expressions of emotion are most accurately recognized when the perceiver and expresser are from the same cultural ingroup.”

Being “In” With the In-Crowd: The Effects of Social Exclusion and Inclusion Are Enhanced by the Perceived Essentialism of Ingroups and Outgroups.

“Belonging to social groups serves an important role in shaping our social identities. Nonetheless, research indicates that exclusion by ingroup and outgroup members seems equally aversive… Direct manipulations of essentialist beliefs about ingroups and outgroups (i.e., political affiliations) led to the same results. These results offer a novel demonstration that essentialized ingroup—outgroup distinctions enhance the sting of social exclusion and the positivity of social inclusion.”

Of course this type of social mirroring can get out of hand, and people end up “bostituting” themselves in order to gain acceptance from key group members.

Bostitute: /bos-sti-toot/ v. To seek approval from your superiors by emulating their style, mannerisms or affectations. n. A person who uses such techniques to win favor.

It is interesting to watch how this type of mirroring and social grooming is played out in our online social networks.

Just take a look at the +1’s, likes and retweets in your networks. Are these mechanisms functioning as substitutes for non-verbal communication? Do these virtual FEEs reflecting our desire to belong? Does the pattern of “liking” mirror the social structure of the group? Is it genuine communication? Or is it just bostitution?

Please +1, like or tweet this! ;-)