Friday, January 8, 2010

It’s the King’s birthday, go take some drugs

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 8:29 PM

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This being the 75th birthday of Elvis Presley, who helped pave the way for Michael Jackson’s prescription drug abuse, it was interesting to open this week’s Newsweek and see an ad for the currently trendy mood regulator Seroquel XR.

Nothing unexpected there, except for the fact that the ad is six pages long, five of which are devoted to detailed descriptions, in microscopic type, of the many ways in which the drug can seriously harm and/or kill you.

Which is not to denigrate the many successes of Western medicine, Elvis and El Jacko notwithstanding. But it does seem strange that someone at AstraZeneca, a European pharmaceutical company that also makes Xylocaine and Prilosec, would think a full-page photo of an attractive woman sitting on some steps looking vaguely disenchanted — followed by page after page of horrific warnings — would send folks scrambling to their MD.

Am I missing something here? Do readers of Newsweek (or Time, where the ad also appeared) respond by turning to their spouses and saying, “Look, honey, five pages of horrible side-effects! This Seroquel must work great!’

Maybe there’s a burgeoning suicide market, some profitable demographic who can be persuaded that the drug will help them go the way of Elvis and Jacko. Or perhaps some conscious-stricken marketing exec had a loved one wind up on the losing end of the Seroquel roulette wheel. Let's hope it was one of the non-lethal side effects, like tardive dyskinesia, for which there happens to be no known treatment:

Another serious side effect reported with SEROQUEL XR and medicines like it is tardive dyskinesia (TD) — uncontrollable movements of the face, tongue, or other parts of the body. TD may become permanent, and the risk of TD is believed to increase as the length of time on and the amount of these medications increase.

More likely, it's just the pesky old FDA again, forcing beleaguered pharmaceutical companies to spend millions of dollars on extra advertising pages that nobody’s going to read anyway. Just one more reason to get government out of health care and let the free market do what it does best. It might drive us into another depression, but hey, there’s a drug for that.

Elvis And Nixon

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