Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rx? (Don’t take Taltz if you are allergic to Taltz…)

I am most fortunate in that, even at my great advanced age, I don’t take any prescription drugs. Oh, there’s some ear cream that I use sporadically, but I don’t think it has a real brand name. And it’s certainly not advertised. Maybe there aren’t all that many people plagued by psoriasis of the ear.

But there are plenty of folks with severe plaque psoriasis. At least I’m guessing that’s the case, given all the ads for different drugs for treating plaque psoriasis. (And a lot of the plaque psoriasis sufferers are apparently MSNBC news junkies, because that’s where I see most of the ads…)

Taltz. Humira. Ortezla.

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that are top of mind.

But whether it’s a plaque psoriasis drug, or something else, I’m always amazed (and alarmed) by all the warnings that come along in the ads. In fact, once the ad is over, I tend to forget what the drug is supposed to treat. Instead I remember the lines like “Don’t take Taltz if you are allergic to Taltz.”

Okay. That sure makes sense.

But who would know whether they’re allergic to Taltz unless they’ve taken Taltz and broken out in hives or whatever?

We’re warned in drug ads about all sorts of bad things that can happen to you.

Tuberculosis. Lymphoma. Pancreatitis (which may prove fatal). Heart failure. Loss of vision or hearing. Suicidal thoughts. (And then there are the minor ones: diarrhea, headache.)

I get that the cure may end you up with some other terrible health problem. Three years ago this Sunday, my closest friend died from complications to a stem cell transplant that was treating a recurrence of lymphoma. Lymphoma which had been likely brought on by the drugs she had taken for years to treat lupus. So, there are tradeoffs, and if you’ve got something god-awful – like severe lupus – then they may well be worth making.

Still, those ads are just so dire.

There are ads that tell you to let your doctor know if you’ve ever been treated for cancer. Or had a liver transplant. I know that people switch physicians all the time, and that medical records don’t necessarily keep up (even when you’re seeing the same doctor, and when everything you’re doing, medical-wise, is within the same healthcare system). But how could you forget to tell your doctor that you’ve had a liver transplant? And if you’ve neglected to tell them, shouldn’t they have seen the scar and asked ‘what up?’

I can’t remember a time when there weren’t ads for OTC medications. (“Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself” was an infamous line in an Anacin (aspirin) ad. It even made it into a novelty song. And, of course,  “I’m not a doctor. I just play one on TV…”)

At some point in the 1980’s, we began to see ads for prescription drugs. Which is actually fairly odd (and somewhat insidious), given that, unlike other items that are advertised direct-to-consumer, we can’t go out and buy what’s being advertised. Prescription drugs aren’t like Ford F-150s or iPhones. We need to ask our doctor to prescribe the drug for us. So all of a sudden, once those ads started popping up, we had patients-as-consumers bugging their doctor to prescribe specific drugs that they wanted to pop.

I’m all for patients advocating for themselves and their loved ones. Doctors don’t know everything – there’s way to much to know – and you certainly have supreme interest in what it is that’s happening to you. Why not suggest avenues of exploration to your doctor?

But requesting branded drugs because you’ve seen them heavily advertised on TV (dire potential consequences or not)… Doctors are already being pressured by the pharma reps. Now they have their patients clamoring for the little purple pill.

Back to all those dire potential consequences…

If you do need to take a prescription medication, you really need to tune out the warnings or you wouldn’t take them.

Other than the one for a certain category of drug.

I’d say it is more than prudent to get medical help right away if you’re a fellow who’s experiencing an erection that’s lasted for more than four hours.

While you’re at it, tell your doctor if you’ve had a liver transplant. And don’t take Taltz if you’re allergic to Taltz.

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