I am writing this column tonight grateful that I am alive. I have apparently tempted fate more times than I could possibly remember. I have walked a tightrope, dangled from a skyscraper and jumped from an airplane without a parachute. I have walked with hungry lions, stepped in front of gunfire and swam with sharks.
Not really. I’ve managed to survive the side effects of prescription medication.
I have watched the advertisements for a dozen or so prescription medications and have deduced that the only thing worse than the ailments they are supposed to cure are the side effects. There are these animated commercials with people and their various body parts or pills dressed like superheroes and they are hilariously optimistic. Until they mention the bloating, bleeding gums, diarrhea, blurry vision and death. Death. Yes, death. One of the side effects of many medications is death. I might be able to handle bloody gums and a little bathroom time, but death is serious business. I’m taking these things to prevent death, not give it a first-class ticket on the Concorde.
At our age, my wife and I take a lot of medications. We are far from falling apart, but we each have chronic ailments that require regular medication. For instance, I have GERD, or acid reflux. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize Tums only do so much. The doctor prescribed me a prescription-strength version of the over-the-counter stuff and I take it regularly. One day, I had some time to kill after leaving the pharmacy and I read the little printout the pharmacy prints out for you with each medication, even if you have been taking the medication since the eighties. I think they have to give it out, it’s a pharmacy rule. Try asking them not to and they get surly like you asked them to toss in two or three extra pills. Apparently, the side effects include stomach pain and gas. Well, guess what, Doctor McDreamy, I already have this with the GERD, I don’t need more of it.
Some of the more entertaining ones are the medications of a more, how shall we say, intimate variety. One commercial tells you to consult a physician if the, well, effects of the medication have not subsided in four hours. While I cannot personally attest to the side effect, the prospect of being able to do a push-up without using my arms is intriguing. Of course, death is also a side effect, so this might be a one-time event.
I know there are regulations on pharmaceutical companies and they are bound by law to list each and every side effect of the medications regardless of how many patients suffered the side effect. My neighbor Norman swore on a stack of Bibles (actually four Bibles and a Louis L’Amour western novel he forgot was between two of the Bibles) that his blood pressure medications made him sing better than Robert Goulet. Norman could carry a tune but his version of “Camelot” paled in comparison to Mr. Goulet. I was prescribed the same medications a few years ago and not once did I see Robert Goulet’s name on the bottle nor the printout from the pharmacy. My version of “Camelot” was patently awful.
I know side effects are important to know. I know a few pharmacists and even some doctors and nurses. I know that certain medications cannot ever be paired with others. I know variations of illnesses require different medications. I may have the same medications as someone else, but for different ailments. The side effects for me may be different than for others. I get that. How about I discuss that with my doctor or the pharmacy?
The commercials are getting ridiculous. In 30 seconds, you have a little cartoon of a capsule wearing a Superman outfit and a soothing voice telling you how your life is going to change once you are taking the stuff. For another thirty seconds, you hear a solemn monotone telling you how the medication you are taking for your cat allergy is going to make you eat copper wiring and speak in tongues.
For now, I’m just gonna take my medications and enjoy my life free of acid reflux. The gas will just have to be a bonus.
Want to pull my finger?
Contributing columnist and Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.