Monday, April 05, 2010

You Want Gangrene With That?

Pillhead, by Bryan Christie

The FCC or the FDA, whoever was responsible for allowing drug companies to advertise prescription drugs on television needs to revisit that decision and consider tossing it out.

It's part of the problem and not the solution. Couple reasons for that. One, it drives up demand and thus costs for meds that people think they need but probably don't. And it is, to a sizeable portion of the viewing audience, dangerous.

You see a whole raft of chem flacked on the tube, from treatments for impotence, to too- frequent urination to toenail fungus. Got heartburn? Don't jack your bed up and disturb the cat -- take our pill instead. Weiner not getting up fast enough? We got immediate blue pill, or daily or good for thirty six hours time-release pill, and you better swallow it quick or you'll get a stiff neck.

Whatever ails you? Listen up, and go ask -- no -- demand -- that your doctor write you a script for it, right now. Guy on TV said it's good, make your doc fork it over. What does she know?

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I think the drug companies who want to advertise on the airways should be required to send a copy of the PDR out to every house that has a television set. And before you hie yourself to the doctor and start pounding on her desk, you should be required to read the PDR reference on the drug and sign a statement saying you did it. That way, if something falls off you'd rather keep, at least you were warned..

The PDR -- Physician's Desk Reference -- is just that -- a collection of the inserts the feds require the pharmaceutical companies to include with their wares, detailing what it is, what it does, how -- if they know -- it does it, the dosage, and the contraindications and side-effects.

Let's look at a few of these, shall we?

That Viagra and Cialis commercials get lampooned a lot -- done it myself -- when they get to the "erection lasting longer than four hours" part (and the following, if you notice a sudden loss in vision or hearing, why, stop taking the stuff and, you know, call your doctor business.) You know what's really funny about it? If you get an erection (or, not to leave women out, an unhooded clitoris) that doesn't go away after the stimulation stops, it is considered a medical emergency. Why is that? Because it can lead to a shut down of blood circulation, gangrene, and amputation.

There is a slight chance that if you take it to get Mr. Willie up, and if it doesn't work as it is supposed you, you might have to get Mr. Willie cut off.

Prostate getting big? It will if you live long enough, and you'll have to get up in the middle of the night to pee, and there will be some stops and starts and dribbling. Hell getting older.

There are a couple of ways to treat that medically. One way goes after it hormonally, shrinking the gland. The other dilates smooth muscle, making the plumbing more efficient. And when they work perfectly, they are wonders for patients.

The side effects, however, since the hormone is female, can include man-tits and limp willie, probably neither which are going to be more fun than cutting down on drinking before you toodle off to bed. And the opening of smooth muscle has a host of problems, one of which can be fainting every time you stand up suddenly. Or when you get excited.

Got yellow toenails? Why, a three-month treatment with Lamisil™ pills could fix you right up. Works eight or nine times out of ten. Kinda spendy -- if you don't use the generic form, Lamisil runs about $13-14 per pill, or as much as $4200/month for treatment, and you have to take it for three months, hmm, do the math, that um, carry the ought, $12,600 ...

Probably want the generic version, which runs a mere $750 for the same course of treatment. You can find it cheaper, but it's probably made in Cambodia, and the quality might not be so good. Nothing against Cambodia, but when I think first-class prescription drugs, that's not the country that springs to mind.

Of course, there are the side effects to this fungicide. Mild on the one hand -- upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea; ranging to skin necrosis -- that is to say, patches of your skin just start to rot; temporary (or rarely, permanent) loss of your sense of taste; hearing and vision problems; or ruining your liver altogether, requiring a) a liver transplant or b) you die ...

Yellow toenails don't sound so bad when you look at the option, do they?

Before you head for the clinic to stoke up on the latest that Big Pharma thinks you should have, either look at the PDR or take the time to research the side effects online. Not everybody who takes a drug will get the worst that can happen, but if you are the rare exception, that might not be much comfort. And if it only happens to one person in three hundred thousand, with all those TV commercials, the numbers are going to increase simply because there will be more people taking the stuff.

Caveat patient.


Anonymous said...

While you make a good point, I find the drug commercials darkly humorous.

'Take Drug X!
It's Good For Condition Y!'
Total promotion time of THIRTY SECONDS (maybe less).

And then there is FIVE MINUTES of all the bad things that Drug X may cause.

Kinda the old cliche, 'Void where prohibited by COMMON SENSE.'

Michael said...

Speaking as someone who swallows a drugstore every morning and evening, I've been fairly lucky so far -- only side effects have been weight gain & hypertension (for which I take yet another pill) and, when I first started taking an anti-depressant, a case of candida on my tongue that could've taken 1st prize at a Corgi show. But I agree with you. Drugs should be off the airwaves and put back on the streets where they belong.

Ian SADLER said...

side effects may include death.....

Anonymous said...


That would interfere with the drug companies' Sacred Right to earn as much money as they possibly can. Are you some kind of socialist fascicst commie Statist?

steve-vh said...

The ones that scare me the most are those hawking depression medication. Everyone experiences levels of depression, doesn't mean it is clinical. Clinical depression is when it significantly effects your life. Not mildly or short term but significantly.
And gee the pill won't make everything all fineeither, it just limits the effect of the condition. It can make you an emotionless zombie. It doesn't make you happier. It makes you not so sad, it just rounds off the edges of either direction.
So you better really have your life impacted if you choose meds.
Don't get me wrong, there are a great many people who can benefit from depression meds and the ads help some of them find the help they need. But too many more think they do based on the ads and no research. Depression is not a diagnosis your family Doc should make.

Oh, and if you do choose the meds, even briefly, whatever you do, don't tell your life insurance company or forget ever getting affordable coverage again.

Travis said...

My wife is a pharmacist. People do come in and, no shit, try and get the medication from "that one commercial".

Justin said...

What rubs me the wrong way are the medications to treat the symptoms of acid reflux. It doesn't cure the ailment itself -- just the symptoms.

That's like removing your fuel gauge to prevent you from running out of gas. The problem's still there; you just don't get the warning signs.

Steve Perry said...

A whole lot of medicine is like that -- lotsa stuff we can't cure, so we treat the symptoms. If you can get to the root, that's better, but if you have a nasty cold and are snorking and spitting and feel like death warmed over, all they can treat are the symptoms.

You can have the flu and be miserable or have the flu and maybe not feel so bad. As long as the treatment doesn't risk worse than what it is alleviating, there's a good argument for using it.

If the side effect for a heartburn treatment is slow and painful death, maybe I won't take that pill ...