Is the Cure Much Better Than the Disease?

Have you ever read the print-out that comes with a prescription – the one that offers all the warnings and describes the potential side effects of the medicine you’re about to pop into your mouth?  Some of them are so scary that you don’t want to take the medicine, and in fact, The Curmudgeon has made a deliberate decision not to read those things and to limit his reading to the warnings on the bottle.

Some of the medicine we take is pretty dangerous.  The Curmudgeon, for one, takes a weekly self-injection that lowers his immune system, which in his mind means the problem for which he takes the shot has virtually disappeared but someday he’s going to die from a common cold.

Oh well.

When drug companies advertise their products on television they’re required, for reasons The Curmudgeon doesn’t really understand, to provide a warning of potential side effects.  To do that, they usually hire an announcer who can talk faster than most people can listen.  From The Curmudgeon’s perspective, telling patients about the potential side effects of a drug is the job of the doctor, not a television commercial, but our government doesn’t agree with him about this.

Once in a while The Curmudgeon can actually make out what that announcer is saying, though, and that happened recently when he saw a commercial for a drug called Opdivo, which is used to treat certain kinds of cancer.

Opdivo can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and systems in your body and affect how they work.  This may happen at any time during or after treatment has ended and may become serious and lead to death.  See your doctor right away if you experience new or worsening cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, diarrhea, severe stomach pain or tenderness, severe nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, constipation, excessive thirst or urine, swollen ankles, loss of appetite, rash, itching, confusion, headaches, hallucinations, muscle or joint pain, flushing, fever, or weakness, as this may keep these problems from becoming more serious.

To be fair to the Opdivo folks, the drug is – they don’t dare use the word, but you really should get this – a form of chemotherapy, so patients shouldn’t be expecting a day at a spa.  But this?  Is this supposed to make you go running to your doctor and demand, “Hey, doc, I want this drug and I want it now”?  Warnings like that have to leave you wondering:  is the cure worse than the disease?

 

 

 

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