Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Side effects may include sickness

I was watching TV the other day when a commercial discussing a recently released asthma medication lit up the screen. It showed a wide-open field with people basking in the glow of a radiant sun, enjoying the breathable, fresh air.

Though I was doing homework at the time, my full attention was quickly grabbed by the side effects listed at the end of the ad. Among those listed, the most intriguing was “may cause shortness of breath.”

So now, a person suffering from asthma can safely take a substance that will treat

his breathing problems with potentially problematic breathing.

Well, that helps.

As an asthmatic myself, I found the commercial slightly shocking and amusing at the same time. I understand the pain and frustration of airway constriction and find it hard to believe that any other person with the condition would purposefully want more difficulties.

After hearing that minor crusade against free breathing, I decided to pay closer attention to the negative symptoms of other medical products presented in television advertisements. If you can believe it, I tried to disregard all of the medications whose side effects were simply worse than the ailment supposedly being treated in the first place.

In my search, I found an acne cream that may cause redness and irritation, a PMS pill that may cause moderate to severe cramping and depression meds that may increase suicidal thoughts.

Can you say “What the hell?”

Contemplating the moral and ethical issues of such ads — thank you, Philosophy 101 — I remembered a scene from the 2001 comedy, “Joe Somebody.” An unhappy AV specialist working for a large pharmaceutical company, Joe sullenly walks through his house while one of his commercials for a new drug audibly murmurs in the background.

In the commercial, the announcer says, “Possible side effects may include: depression, general discomfort, headaches, blurred or distorted vision, loss of balance, dry mouth, numbness, periodontal disease, lock jaw, tremors, heart palpitations, varicose veins, liver damage, kidney failure, loss of taste, loss of smell, loss of sight, early Alzheimer’s, cardiac arrest, and in extremely rare cases … death … Volomin. Making you better than you really are.”

The advertisement, though exaggerated for comedic effect, does show a bit of reality.

I’ll be the first to admit that going to see the doctor is not a favorite activity. I dread those occasional visits to the ominous, egg-colored facility filled with confusing charts, sharp needles and cold-handed nurses.

But I’m also not one to deny the benefits of prescription medications … the ones that work, anyway.

The bottom line is, although I find medical practitioners somewhat terrifying, I get why they’re important. I get why their extensive knowledge is helpful when it comes to the public’s health.

What I don’t get is how those doctors and scientists, with all their knowledge and experience, can allow people to take drugs seemingly working against the greater good. It almost seems as though these “may cause” side effects are used to keep people sick, needing more medical attention and prescriptions.

The patient, as well as the doctor, should be held accountable for any medicinal shortcomings within their prescribed regiment. People responsible enough to be in control of their own well-being should consider any larger scale, long-term results before mindlessly popping a quick-fix pill.

Not having personally taken any of the above medications, I’m probably missing the positive outcomes of those meds still on the market. However, from the outside looking in, I fail to see how solving a problem with other and/or bigger problems is very effective.

Ungrateful as it may be and with respect to the researchers trying to make a difference, if that’s the best there is, I think I’ll take my chances with what nature “may cause.”

Debra Flax is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column runs weekly on Thursdays.

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