Better Ask Your Doctor

It appears that Johnson and Johnson forget or failed to warn the public of the dangers of its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal.  An Arkansas judge ordered the company and a subsidiary to pay 1.2 billion in fines for deceptive practices.  It’s really not the miracle drug it was marketed to be, producing no better results to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and teenage behavior problems than cheaper generics.  The companies conveniently hid the serious dangers associated with the drug which include weight gain, increased risk of diabetes and, in the elderly, an increased risk of  stroke.  Not that the risks should always outweigh the possible benefits, but folks should be warned that there are risks.

One might say it is up to the patient to ask the doctor of the risks of medication.  I argue, however, that doctors should be aware of them too, after all, they are doctors – they should know about this stuff, but they may not have time to read up on all the latest studies and research trials going on – you might really know more than your doctor.  The fact that the drug is FDA approved might be enough for him or her to prescribe it, but I fear that drug makers not only market to patients, but to doctors as well, giving out free samples of the stuff along with pin lights and mugs.

In the case of people who need antipsychotic medication, it’s not  realistic to expect that they can advocate for themselves, so who will if not the doctor or a caring and informed family member.  Big pharma’s not out there advocating for the patient rights of the bipolar and schizophrenic among us.  Profit over mental health, which is what ails the heath care industry.

The next time your doctor prescribes you some medication, ask them about the side effects.  You have a right to know whether the drugs prescribed are compatible, whether one or the other might cause heart palpitations, a swollen tongue or an increased risk of memory and motor loss.  You have the right to know that your lips  might turn blue and that you could be prone to fits of incoherent babbling, something I am quite capable of doing drug-free.  Ask your doctor.  Don’t wait until the pharmacists asks you if you have any questions.  Because if you’re like me, you’ll say something like, “no, I’m good”, or “I’m all set”.  I mean all we need to know is on the label, right?  Don’t take with alcohol.  May cause marked drowsiness.  Don’t operate heavy machinery.  I don’t routinely operate heavy machinery like a jet airliner or an 18 wheeler, but I have on occasion made a few photocopies while medicated – don’t tell anyone, especially my doctor; he’d have fit.


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