Friday, July 24, 2009

Side Effects May Include Suicide

I saw an ad for a Pfizer product recently on TV. Maybe I'm just used to not being able to understand the 'fine print' on TV for the last few years, or maybe in Japan they just don't bother with that crap. Maybe it's a combination of both. But last time I remember people making fun of the side effects of prescription medicine on commercials, it was stuff like cramps, diarrhea, or (at the very worst) 'blood in your stool'. Apparently that's so 80's. Pfizer now offers a product that may include 'suicidal thoughts or actions' as possible side effects.

This was an advertisement on television. Maybe I'm reading too far between the lines here, but I imagine 'suicidal actions' as a cute way of saying 'some fucker tried to kill themselves'. Not just thought about it, but went and acted upon it.

Any action deemed suicidal brings razor blades and wrists, or high elevations and jumping to mind. I don't actually remember the product being advertised, since I was so weirded the fuck out by the whole suicidal actions thing. So I hit up google for "pfizer suicidal actions" and was presented with 441,000 pages of results. Apparently this is a common thing with them, from everything for 'Shingles pain relievers' to shit to help you quit smoking. The fact that I have the sure fire method to quitting smoking --that worked for me-- down pat with no drugs needed (step one: don't put any cigarettes in your mouth, step two: there is no step two), I kinda feel that if you feel like you're going to bleed out from the wrists in a warm tub over cigarettes, then you might as well just keep on smoking, bro. Seriously.

Does it strike anyone else as odd that with this being a legitimate side effect, the product still goes to market? If it was one case, it would be thrown out as a fluke. The fact that people tested with this shit have this be a common enough occurrence that it goes into television spots (in a quick hushed tone in between shots of smelling flowers and crap)... shouldn't that set off warning flags somewhere?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the removal of 90% of the crap we print on products today. That there are paragraphs of text on bags telling idiots to not let their children put them over their heads... that there are whole sections on rat poison that are like "PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULDN'T EAT THIS, OKAY?"... that bananas come with warning labels that are like THIS GOES IN YOUR MOUTH, NOT YOUR URETHRA (well, okay, we're not there yet... but SOON, right?).

It all seems a little silly. But when the other side of the coin is like 'drinking Dr. Pepper will send you on a fucking killing spree', then MAYBE it's time to get Dr. Pepper off the shelves.

Ugh. My uterus hurts. I need to go lay down.


Krunchy said...

I seem to remember that there's a drug for "restless leg syndrome" which as best as I can tell is not being able to sit or lie still. I've always just figured it meant people were jumpy or had been drinking too much coffee, but FEAR NOT for there is a pill for you! Side effects, however may include INCREASED GAMBLING OR SEXUAL URGES. I shit you not. I'm not sure how to react to that.

anon said...

I have worked on the production side of pharma doing computer stuff for a few years now, on one hand they tend to be very nice to work for. They also make life saving drugs, which is good and all.

But some aspects of the industry feel so dodgy, there's nothing at the production side, you just pump out pills, but you watch the stories as they involve the company you work for.

There always seems to be one of the big companys in trouble, having gotten there hands caught in the cookie jar at some point doing something dodgy. Its usually something like they take a drug thats not been passed by the fda and give it out in Africa to test it basically. The drugs probably do work on some level, and the people would have gotten nothing on the other hand, but then again the same thing could cause there dick to fall off after 6 months and there basically guinea pigs.

Another scam lilly got caught for was they got a drug approved for some mental illnesses and then went off and tried to sell it as a cure for another few ones that it wasnt approved for. That one cost them 1.5 Billion.

Apart from the isolated things, there is a general air of dodgyness about there marketing. I wonder how many doctors get trips and goodies in order to be convinced to use one company's drug over another (maybe this is regulated now ?)

The direct marketing to the customer in the us seems odd to me as well, its not really done over here in Europe (as far as I have seen), its probably regulated, which makes sense, shouldn't your doctor be diagnosing you and picking the correct drug for you, instead of you going to your doctor and saying you want the one with the pretty flowers in the ad ?

We get a more cunning form of ad though, it basicly goes along the line of, do you have heart disease, if so go to your doctor (sponsored by phfizers). And of course when you go to your doctor he gives you phfizers ubiquitous anti cholesterol drug.

Still though, despite all this, developing medications costs serious money, so in many respects, big pharma is a good thing, but like any big commercial organisation there are dodgy dealings, which seem odd as they involve something as important as peoples health

Klepsacovic said...

It was probably Viagra, makes for a decent way of mitigating the perception: "Side effects may include suicide, but you might not die a virgin."

More seriously, pharmaceutical companies frighten me. They make little pills which we're supposed to ingest, which we know can have wildly varying effects, and their regulator is totally overworked. Oh, and on the subject of Pfizer, the last normal sort of job my mom had was for a pharmaceutical company that got bought by Pfizer. They'd done some pretty nice R&D and done a little bit to make us all die less often. Pfizer bought them, grabbed the patents, and then figuratively burned down everything else (including the R&D that had made those patents which make the company worth buying).

Yes that's right, the company that makes those drugs that might make you kill yourself, has no interest in its own long-term health.

Rem said...

It all seems a little silly. But when the other side of the coin is like 'drinking Dr. Pepper will send you on a fucking killing spree', then MAYBE it's time to get Dr. Pepper off the shelves.

While I'm much in agreement with you, it's your own example here, that accentuates the inevitably more complex nature of the topic. Allow me to elaborate.

Let's look at something that is dear to us, computer games. Fire up Google and we both know you'll fine millions of hits to articles and studies "proving" that video games turn the players into Satan's minions. See, you and me both are probably safe and secure that those people are very much full of it, and there's lots of studies and research pointing out the opposite or at least that the first sort of study is subjective, ignores essential factors and is manipulatively constructed just to prove a point. Nevertheless, that first sort of study exists. Nevertheless, ESRB notices exist. So, what do we do, banish computer games from existence, make them widely illegal? The 50-85 demographic is approvingly nodding right now, kind of forgetting how when they were young, banning rock'n'roll, or jazz, or whatever, was equally supposed to solve all of the society problems, while they kind of didn't like the idea. But I digress.

But, this is different, you say, we're talking medicine here, stuff that's supposed to get you right, not even more messed up. But let's be clear on what medication actually is. Using an analogy, if your body is a planet, taking a drug is like dropping a nuke on a major city, because you know a really evil guy is sitting somewhere in there, but don't have any way of pinning him down more precisely. You kind of expect the radiation to wear off after a while, and then the good guys from nearby cities will come in and rebuild the area. That's what medicine realistically is. Sometimes radiation doesn't fade quite as quickly as you expect, sometimes it spreads out a little further and wipes the neighbour city along with it.

My mother once had to take medication that, as a side effect, made her lose the ability to taste sweet, for nearly two years. Not quite the same as jumping off a building, but, still, having chocolate ice-cream taste no different than dog poo for two years (you eat brown wobbly stuff and it doesn't taste sweet - what will your brain tell you you're eating?) is not among the most pleasant experiences either. The packing slip stated, that in some extremely rare cases the loss can be permanent. And we're not talking about something life-saving as cancer-medication here, just means of getting rid of a residual infection. I had to take medication once that dried my facial skin so much, my very lips were coming off in rags, all the time. It was painful, and actually eating something - doubly painful. Again, not even something to save me from death, just finally getting rid of an annoying chronic disease.

For all the wonders medicine can accomplish today, all the "gods in white" and whatnot, that's really how it works most of the time: nuke it, hope the good guys survive. Worth keeping in mind, before resorting to dropping pills on every trifle (kudos on your method of stopping smoking!).

Anonymous said...

I love the wind up doll commercial for antidepressant.

nothing like taking a medication for your depression that will make you suicidal o-O

Anonymous said...

Go watch Idiocracy if you haven't already. Great movie with Luke Wilson and the dumbing down of the world.

Shamrockgirl said...

those side effects always leave me a bit speechless as well.

i used the same method as you to quit smoking and *surprise* it worked!

Khatib said...

It all seems a little silly. But when the other side of the coin is like 'drinking Dr. Pepper will send you on a fucking killing spree', then MAYBE it's time to get Dr. Pepper off the shelves.

I want to hear Oprah make this exact comment and watch Dr Pepper sales plummet for no good reason whatsoever.

Firespirit said...

Honestly Ixo, this is why I wholeheartedly think that pharmaceutical companies should be sued for advertising their products directly to consumers. They see a new drug like the one for restless leg syndrome (honestly people, what did we do in the 1800's? Yeah, they LIVED with those DAMMED LEGS THAT TAPPED BY DOING SOME ACTUAL FARM WORK!) and immediately flock to the doctors, who don't even have a way to know if another doctor has prescribed any other drug that might conflict with it.

The adverting needs to go to doctors who know what the hell (or should know) they are doing and prescribing. Half of these drugs wouldn't make it through the first year because of it.

Username74003 said...

This is an atrocity. I do not care if a pill makes anal warts appear on my face, or make my nipples excrete a a chunky substance that resembles purple oatmeal.
What I cannot abide is the slandering of the Elixir of the Gods. DR. PEPPER!

Hatch said...

Welcome back to America! Strange to think about how used to those ads I've become. There must be a ton of things that have changed since you left that I have barely noticed, being so close to them.

I'm pretty sure they list every side effect possible to avoid liability, even if it's just one single Johnny Outlier who killed himself or whatever. That way no one can sue them because they can just say "we warned you by talking really fast about it in our ad!"

Isey said...

I need to sign up for your quit smoking program.

Are there any side effects?

Anonymous said...

FDA Expands Suicide Warning to Add Young Adults Taking Antidepressants. Yeah, antidepressants caused people to kill themselves. The irony is overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is the risk of suicide is at its highest in the few weeks that immediately follows when an individual comes out of a depression.

The amount of suicidal thoughts actually decreases but the individual now has the enery to act upon these thoughts.