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Guinea Pig Zero

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Thursday 19 April 2012: Off Label

The world premier of the documentary Off Label at Tribeca Film Fest in NYC was a pleasing success. The reason I'm telling you this is because I'm in the picture. For the Q&A line-up after the screening here are (L-R) co-directors Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, former drug rep Michael Oldani, Bioethicist Carl Elliott, and the world's most opinionated human guinea pig, Robert Helms a/k/a "me."

The directors balanced humor with horror to investigate The use of human subjects in the US by drug manufacturers, the corrupt and agressive marketing of presrciption drugs, the quirky subculture of human guinea pigs, PTSD, and the condition called polypharmacy, which is when a person is taking so many prescription drugs in combination every day that nobody on Earth knows what's going to happen. The use of prisoners as guinea pigs was also investigated.

Carl Elliott's books and articles inspired the film. He is what I call a "Knight in Shining Armor" because he understands the resposability of intellectuals and does what's right, instead of doing what's safe while enjoying the privileges and influence created by his 3-storey tall bulldozer of a brain.

It was great to meet Oldani for the first time, as well as the producer Anish Savjani who had the original idea for the film. One person featured in the film who I hope to meet some day is Andy Duffy, who was an Army medic at Abu Graib prison. His testimony was especially interesting for me.

I am very pleased to be a part of this film, and so is my chubby cat and muse Carlo. I've been all over the media for fifteen years and it's so refreshing that this team not only completed the film and made a good film, but that they learned their subject thouroughly and intimately before proceeding. Here's a review that went on line within an hour of the screening.

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