Over the holidays I bought a well-known weekly national magazine. As I started paging through it, I noticed a multitude of medication ads; so many that I decided to rip out all those pages. Interestingly, after doing so, I was reading a much smaller and lighter magazine. But when I studied the ripped pile of severed pages, I realize that almost all pertained to the sale of legal drugs: Invokana to lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes; Harvoni for chronic Hepatitis C; Keytruda to treat lung cancer or melanoma; Trumenba as a vaccine to prevent invasive disease such as meningitis B; Prevnar 13 to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia; Xeljanz for rheumadoid arthritis; Pradaxa to thin one’s blood; Brilinta to reduce strokes or heart attacks; Breo Ellipta for asthma; and Cialis for erectile dysfunction, to name a few.
Wow! I wondered whether this magazine’s readership might be plagued with a plethora of medical problems to merit the insertion of such heavy pharmaceutical ads. When I continued to analyze the scattered pages, I read about an incredible and significant amount of horrible side effects that one might have if one took these drugs. The range was impressive, scary and downright depressing: death, lung problems, intestinal problems, hormone gland problems, kidney problems, infusion reactions, wheezing, weakened immune systems, rashes, fatigue, joint pain, intestinal tears, blood abnormalities, blood clots, bleeding to death, atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, asthma and shortness of breath, fungal infections in the mouth, osteoporosis, severe vision loss, deformed penis shape, low or high blood pressure issues, and dialysis. To save time and space, I am only listing a few of the hundreds of potential complications.
Why am I writing this blog besides stating the obvious, i.e. that we have a drug culture and we believe that taking medications will solve many of our medical problems and perhaps cure us. What we see in our law firm is that people and doctors often times too quickly take a new medication without truly knowing over time what its downsides are, or how the drug will interact with another already-prescribed medication? Statistically, there is very little science proving or documenting accurately how one drug helps or hurts another one in our system. Thus, every time we add a prescribed drug to our regimen, we assume significant risks such as that they will not work well together, or that they may in fact make us sicker than we are.
Ultimately, we always need to be vigilant and protect ourselves by studying the long term effects, talk in great detail with our pharmacists about the medications, sit down with our physicians and make sure we know all the pros and cons, and take our time when rendering these decisions. After all, who is going to take better care of you than you?