Retired physician John R. Agnew has an amusing take on Big Pharma’s bombardment of consumers with DTC advertising. Writes Agnew:
The drug commercials seem to me to be insulting. They overstate the benefits, minimize the side effects and ignore the cost: “Panacea is not for everyone,” they warn. “Let your doctor know if you have liver disease (he is too dumb to figure it out for himself) or are allergic to this drug (which you wouldn’t know in advance anyway). Side effects include fainting, jaundice, suicidal thoughts, constipation and sudden death. Do not operate heavy machinery after taking the first dose, and tell your doctor right away if you are dying”…
My favorite is Reclast, a once-a-year treatment for osteoporosis. It comes with many warnings, of course, including “jaw problems have been reported.” Jaw problems? What does that mean? Lock-jaw? Fossy-jaw? (I looked it up, and you don’t want to know while eating breakfast).
The difference is that Reclast offers a level of convenience that the others don’t. Reclast is the first drug approved by the FDA (in 2007) as a once-a-year, intravenous treatment. As Novartis states on the Reclast Web site:
A single dose, along with daily calcium and vitamin D, helps strengthen your bones and protect them from fracture for 12 full months.
Reclast, along with Fosamax, Boniva and other bone-building drugs, have a number of side effects — but currently the FDA is most concerned about studies that show these drugs can produce irregular heartbeats in some patients. The most recent study, focusing on Fosamax, came out just last month.
Reclast’s jaw side effect, by the way, is osteonecrosis (“bone death”) of the jaw bone; it has occurred only in rare cases. Here’s a full list of Reclast warnings and precautions.