Take your medicine ­ and don’t read the fine print

Take your medicine � and don't read the fine print By Bob Karolevitz When you get a little bit older, doctors prescribe more and more pills and potions to cure what ails you.

The usual first reaction is one of price. How can a dinky little tablet like that cost so much? I've heard that you can get it a heck of a lot cheaper in Canada and Mexico.

Maybe that's a good thing. While you're fussing about cost, you don't have time to read all the fine print on the instruction sheet which comes with each drug purchase.

It's called Side Effects!

If you feel bad already, you'll really be a basket case when you finish the material � written, no doubt by a sadist who uses all the bad words in the medical dictionary.

I gloss over the information meant for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers because I'm not one of them. Then comes the gory part.

Besides curing me � if I'm lucky � the pill will cause stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, bed-wetting, rash, fever, cramps, profuse sweating, yellowing of the skin and a variety of other evil things.

(After reading about all the adverse reactions in type almost too small to see, I decide not to take the pill � and I feel better already.)

Of course the pharmaceutical companies have to protect themselves with disclaimers like that, but sometimes I think they throw in a few extra downers, just in case somebody wants to sue.

Don't get me wrong. This is not an anti-prescription piece. I believe in the right medicine for the right problems. It's the potential side effects that scare the britches off me.

I admire all those white-clad scientists with their test tubes, syringes, microscopes, petri dishes and other assorted gadgets in laboratories everywhere. Except for a few charlatans, their real goal, I'm convinced, is to make us well and not merely to make a buck.

The products they come up with and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration are a far cry from those dollar-a-bottle liars of the old days which only told of glowing results. Negative reactions were never mentioned. If you died, you died. That's all.

Today I pity the over-worked doctor who has to keep abreast of all the new remedies coming down the pike. I don't think he or she has time to read all the side effects either, whether that little pill they prescribe � besides doing its stated job � might also give heart palpitations, dyspepsia, swelling of the ankles, dry mouth and blurred vision.

I also don't know how they keep all those hundreds of drug names straight. They've got to remember Celebrex, Zantac, Tagament, Darvon, Lanoxin, Inderal, Corgard, Motrim and Procardia, plus generic names like Panitidine, Cimetidine, Proponolol, Hydrochloride, Acetaminophen, Prazepam, etc., etc.

Shucks! I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.

I once thought about becoming a pharmacist, but when I got to college and saw how heavy the Pharmacopoeia textbook was, I changed my mind. You wouldn't have wanted me to fill your prescription anyhow � even if I could read the doctor's handwriting.

So side effects or not, I guess I should take what the physician orders me to. I just won't read the fine print. And who knows? I may not get hallucinations, itching, euphoria, disorientation, liver dysfunction, drowsiness, hairy tongue or memory lapse after all.

Incidentally, I've already got that last one, and I can't blame it on a pill.

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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