One thing I can’t stand these days, is the growing proliferation of pharmaceutical advertising. Whether on TV, radio, or in print, it seems one can’t go anywhere or listen to anything without being bombarded by some usually laughable or ridiculous ad, (not uncommonly depicted with cartoon-like drawings,) pushing the latest offering by some pharmaceutical company. And with each and every one, comes the push “Ask your doctor about ___________.” Worse, recently, pharmaceutical companies have adopted the “Coupon Approach”: “Yes, you, too, can get a FREE sample of _________ if you present this coupon to your doctor!”
Years ago, it used to be that the pharmaceutical industry marketed their prescription drug products solely to the dispensing/prescribing end of the sales process: Doctors. That all ended about 15 or so years ago. The drug companies finally got wise to the gullibility of the average American, and saw the light: “Hey, instead of just hawking our products to doctors, who may or may not end up prescribing them to their patients, why don’t we just create demand at the patient level by marketing prescription drugs directly to consumers?” So now, taking advantage of the dumbing down of America, you can watch commercials depicting walking stick figures made of plumbing pipes for bladder control, amorous couples exchanging “that” look for Viagra tablets, and wind-up dolls for depression. In each and every one of these commercials and print ads, is buried some nonchalant “warnings” about “possible side effects,” that are communicated with an insouciant whisper of (“But this would never happen to you“).
Amidst the stampede of this new marketing world for the drug companies, has come a lot of results that should have been expected: Serious prescription drug injuries, including death. One drug in particular took the prize for being the most litigated for prescription drug product liability: Reglan. Reglan is a drug made by Schwarz Pharma and is generically known as metoclopramide. It is used to relieve symptoms caused by slow stomach emptying in people who have diabetes — (and, of course, the number of people who have diabetes has exploded in recent years, due to the nauseating obesity epidemic in this country, but that’s another subject.) The drug was first approved for use in the U.S. in 1985 and comes in the form of injections, tablets, and syrup. Class action lawsuits against the manufacturers of Reglan have been brought due to the very serious side effects caused by the medication, many of them fatal. These side effects have included agranulocytosis, which causes low levels of white blood cells, which can be fatal if left untreated. Aldosteronism is a condition causing excessive production of hormones and low blood potassium levels. Other side effects of Reglan include depression, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, seizures, jaundice, severe allergic reactions, tachycardia, and tardive dyskinesia. Reglan can also result in NMS, or neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which causes muscle rigidity, fever, and delirium. Like so many other Reglan side effects, this can be life threatening.
So the next time you see or read one of these often laughable drug company ads, I’d look at it with skepticism, and don’t ask your doctor for a prescription until you have thoroughly researched the drug. One very useful website you can utilize for this purpose, is the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a non-profit organization dedicated to learning and disseminating information about medication errors. Staffed by pharmacists, doctors and nurses, it is a non-government organization, and is considered very reliable.
If you believe that you or someone you care about has been harmed side effects from a prescription drug, contact an experienced Massachusetts prescription drug injury lawyer to learn about your legal options.