Pharmacomedy

 By Shamus Apr 23, 2007 33 comments

For the last two weeks my sleep has been all messed up. Most nights I get between four and five hours. Once in a while I’ll luck out and get six. The doctor gave me Rozerem samples to see if that would help. Except: Once I had them I didn’t want to use them. I hate sleeping pills. They don’t really solve problems, only delay them. Sure, I can take a pill and it will put me to sleep tonight, but tomorrow if I don’t take the pill it will be even harder to get to sleep than it was in the first place, as my body will be anticipating the drug.

I decided to see if there is some sort of informational webpage that might describe the drug. Oh. My. Goodness.. I was expecting some raw text with technical specifications (or whatever you call them) of the drug. Instead I found this flash-driven comedy show staring an insomniac, a beaver, and Abe Lincoln. The drug doesn’t have it’s own webpage. It has its own website. With message boards. Message boards!

I like that the site lists other ways to help you get to sleep (some of the advice I found to be kind of helpful) without using their drug, although it was hard to find what I was looking for: Side-effects, how long the drug lasts, what the risks are, and how to take it. (With food, or water, or on an empty stomach, etc.) Eventually I found that you can get more info on the drug by (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) clicking on the beaver, and if you hunt around you can find a PDF with boring details like the side effects.

What a strange site. I’m not suggesting that these guys are going to supplant Homestar and Strongbad anytime soon, but still. I wonder how many other drugs have their own sites like this? Maybe judging the hilarity of a proposed drug will become part of the FDA approval process. Which drugs are the funniest, I wonder? If there is a site for Lithium, I think it should look like Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes. That would be awesome.

201333 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. phlux says:

    And the website for Ritolin would look like the 20X6 guy.

    Are you asking for a CHALLENGE!!??

  2. Steve says:

    DO you find it funny that the side-effects of drugs are as bad as the condition they are trying to cure?!

    I took anti-malaria pills once. Side-effects included: vomitting, diarrhea, sickness, sweating, exhaustion.. on and on. By the end of the list you might as well have HAD malaria!

    Side effects of Rozerem? drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness. That sounds just like insomnia to me…

  3. Stark says:

    Frankly I find this, and indeed the entire phenomenon of direct advertising of prescription meds, to be more than a bit distrubing. The fact that you had to search, and search fairly hard at that, to find out what should be the most basic and up front information about a mind altering drug is scary to me.

    Call me silly but I still think the guy in the white coat with roughly a decade of sepcialized education is in a better position to decide what potentially dangerous madication I should use to treat my medical issues without me, the arm chair physician who can maybe spell biochemistry but has zero understanding of it, telling him the “TeeVee told me this here magic pill would fix me up right good so that’s what I want!” This does happen, quite alot, ask your doctor.

    It’s asinine to advertise this stuff on TV – send the literature to the docs, the hospitals and the health groups. Include the literature that shows the efficacy of your drug and it’s side effects, contra-indications and likely best candidates for treatment… but please, do not suggest to the general populace that they can better determine which drug is right for them based of TV ads.

    Sorry… I’m ranting… one of my pet peeves though. I do have to say that I find the fast talk guy listing the potential side effects on the ads quite often hilarious – listen closeley and you’ll often hear ‘death’ listed in there… Ha. Ha.

  4. Stark says:

    Reagrding my last post: Holy run-on sentenance Batman!

    Sorry!

  5. “listen closeley and you’ll often hear ‘death’ listed in there…”

    Yeah, we had a box of paints we had picked up at a garage sale. I was going through sorting them, and noticed that there was some glass paint that had a big caution label listing contact issues and side effects including nausea, dizziness, blindness and death. …yeah. That went away fairly quickly. You know what’s funny though? My steak knives had no such side-effect warning, but misuse can cause the same effects!

  6. David V.S. says:

    I’ve had trouble falling asleep in less than 30-40 minutes for almost all of my teenage and adult life.

    Starting last summer, I began receiving accupuncture treatments for a joint problems. Oddly enough, the most visible sign that the treatments do something is that I now fall asleep quickly. (I had 2-3 treatments a week for three weeks, then switched to once per month. Besdies helping in general, which started dramatically when I started the treatments, the evenings after my monthly treatment I fall asleep especially well.)

  7. Bree says:

    Did you know you can play chess with the beaver?

    I’m not sure if that will help me sleep.

  8. BMGCanuck says:

    Just let him win or you’ll be up all night.

  9. eloj says:

    At a copy-party back in the dim late 90s me and a friend developed a game called “Beaver Hunt”. It featured a static background and a a simple animated beaver that was bouncing around, and the object for the player was to use a huuughe flyswat to swat the beaver. All this of course to the music of a frantic MOD using inane homebrew samples like “Kill the beaver! KILL THE BEAVER!”.

    Good times.

  10. Gropos says:

    Erm…. Forget the pills, they’ll mess you up good. I always found that going for a jog always helps me sleep better that night. Maybe try that? (Maybe you already have. /shrug)

    I’d be doubly skeptical after viewing that pile of marketing campaign vomit of a website.

  11. Dreamy McSleepland says:

    I will fall asleep almost immediately if I start reading something in bed, especially if it’s something really dull, like mass combat rules.

  12. Arson55 says:

    The beaver isn’t even good at chess. Man, that was an easy win.

  13. Myxx says:

    Pharmacology’s a wierd thing… take the pill and sleep, don’t take the pill and don’t sleep. Take the pill too long and you can’t sleep without it. On the other hand, you couldn’t sleep without it even before you started taking it. Ok, I’m getting dizzy.

    I hear the same argument for pain meds. There’s some validity to it, and certainly science has provided us with some wonderful remedies, but the fewer chemicals you can pump into your body must be better for you in the long run I’d imagine.

    Of course, listen to me. I’ve had a less than wonderful relationship with pain meds for the past few years after an accident. At this point, I can’t function without ‘em, mostly for pain reasons, but that’s certainly not all. So, live in pain, or live with pills. Fun options, huh?

    So, in conclusion, you can’t beat a shot of single malt for a quick knock-out. Just don’t mix Ambien and beer. Trust me on that one.

  14. Paul says:

    Alcohol actually gives me insomnia. I have a couple of drinks, and feel drowsy almost immediately. I go to bed, sleep for twenty minutes to a half an hour, and then I’m awake. Until the wee hours.

  15. I think the point of advertising drugs is to get you to bring them up to your doctor. Doctors are good people, but there are new advances in medicine every 5 seconds, and they’re not going to get all of them. Note that every one of these commercials makes it clear that you need a perscription.

    Personally, I’m all for bringing in more money to those who develop life-saving drugs, so the commercials don’t bother me at all.

  16. Miral says:

    But if that were the reason, then when you mention it to your doctor (who hadn’t previously heard of it), then your doctor has to *not* give it to you. At least if they’re responsible. There’s no way a doctor can take something you vaguely remember from a TV ad as reliable information about the drug and its usage and side effects. So it seems kinda pointless. Just spend more money on getting the information to all the doctors.

    Lately I’ve been going to bed around midnight, falling asleep around 1am, mysteriously waking up for no readily apparent reason at around 5:30am, getting back to sleep at 5:45am, then finally waking up again around 7:30am. (Occasionally I don’t get to sleep until 2am, but the rest is basically unchanged.) That 5am wakeup is really starting to mess me up, though. But I have no intention of taking drugs for it.

  17. “took anti-malaria pills once. Side-effects included: vomiting, diarrhea, sickness, sweating, exhaustion.. on and on. By the end of the list you might as well have HAD malaria!”

    Except, of course, malaria is pretty much forever, until you die, once you have it.

    As for sleeping meds, many people take them for a couple of weeks and it evens out whatever the other problem was and helps them deal with it. They should always be used as a pathway to working out other issues involving sleep, schedules and sleep habits.

    People are wonderfully different. Some people just need to regulate their exercise and timing (which is easier after a few nights of good sleep), a number do a lot better if they take an Omega 3 supplement (a tablespoon of walnut oil a day will do it). It varies.

    Wish you well in figuring out your problem and finding a solution that works for you.

    But everything, everything, has side effects. Even water.

  18. Hal says:

    There’s actually a similar site out there for this new razor blade (I forget the name of it).

    Essentially, it’s a razor that’s safer for the rest of your body, designed for men. The gimmick is that this guy in a labcoat describes the razor and its uses, but essentially just keeps saying that you can make your manhood look bigger by shaving it.

    Humorous for about 15 min., in a Jr. High sort of way.

  19. Eric J says:

    Something to remember about drug side effects, as listed, is that they pretty much have to list everything reported during the human trials, whether it was likely related to the drug or not. So if the nail fungus treatment says “Other side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weight gain.” It could be because they recruited test subjects from Taco Bell.

  20. Heather says:

    Shamus may not have considered this but we (our family) are all a bit more concerned about unmentioned sideaffects lately as our eldest had a potentially deadly sideaffect–with a name–Steven Johnson Syndrome, in relation to the anti-seizure medication they put her on. The listed sideaffect–a rash. What that meant–the rash is the first symptom of a skin/mucus membrane degeneration in which the outer layers of skin (and or all mucus membranes) die and peals off leaving open sores, leaving those with this “side affect” in the burn unit with 3rd degree burns over much of their body or dead. It is a listed sideaffect (as a rash) on many otc medications as well as prescriptions for neurological conditions.

    So yeah, sometimes the sideaffects are just things that are completely unrelated to the drug (or may or may not be, depending on the # tested), and sometimes they are a masking of a greater and potentially deadly side-affect. We have learned the hard way to read those “side-affect” panels carefully since now anytime she encounters one of these drugs with “rash” as a possible side-affect we have to avoid it. (And the side affects for those with this syndrome/reaction included all the things we were trying to avoid by giving her the medication.)

  21. From someone in the drug industry:

    If you want drug info, always Google the drug name and NEVER go to the manufacturer’s website. Other sites put all the necessary info such as dosing and side effects right up front, first page.

  22. Zack says:

    I have had some sleeping problems myself. It is very common once you hit 30 to have issues. There are many different causes, (stress, lack of exercise, caffeine, alcohol, etc)

    I found 3 things that worked for me. Despite a former ability to consume huge amounts of caffeine with little effect I can no longer have any coke/coffee/etc within 12 hours of sleep. (Higher susceptibility to caffeine is common with aging) When I have caffeine I find my mind races and churns at night – not letting me relax. Alcohol also makes sleep elusive but caffeine is my nemesis. Try cutting out caffeine for a few days and see what happens.

    Be careful of caffeine withdrawal — it might be best to tone down consumption gradually. Severe cffeine withdrawal is very painful… (migraines, lack of focus, eye pain, etc)

    Sometimes I have no caffeine and I am still restless, my legs twitch or cramp, I am physically restless not mentally restless. In this case it has usually been lack of exercise. I have found that if I visit the gym in the morning, or go for a jog I will not have this type of restlessness for several days afterwards. Go out and get some exercise. it helps you in many ways to rest better. (just don’t exercise before bed, that wakes your metabolism up.)

    I have also found that dropping the temperature in my house an hour before bed helps my body shut down. It gives my body a signal to start shutting down at night.

    If all this fails I have a routine that is repetitive and brainless that to help me relax at the end of the day. When all else fails I do this for a while and wait for my body to say it is tired.

    You really have to play around to find the causes for yourself. I looked around on the web back when I was unable to sleep and in my case the explanations above helped. The main culprits for me were caffeine, lack of exercise, and anxiety.

    Wish you luck, and pleasant dreams!

  23. Roxysteve says:

    Gotta be better than Crestor.

    I have a problem with triglycerides (basically, fat in the blood) and have been on a variety of Statins over the years to help cope with it (the alternative involves my pancreas periodically gumming up and not working, which feels just like what I imagine being stabbed does) and my doctor switched me from Lipitor to Crestor.

    It came with an explanitory leaflet, four pages of microtype you would need electron microscope eyeballs and a PhD in organic chemistry to understand. Every time I got it.

    Then the Crestor Marketing Borg, (for my safety) write to me once a month (usually in mid-month) to warn me I might not have any Crestor lying about. No matter what the prescription duration, one letter a month.

    Then I start having senior moments. Things come to a head when I spend several minutes trying to figure out which letter is wrong in the word jar, which I have misspelled “Gar”. Minutes, not seconds.

    I go back to my doctor, a great guy who has saved my life on at least one occasion (and when I say that, I mean “dragged me back from the jaws of not being alive” rather than the customary “covered for me when caught drunk by my spouse/girlfriend”) laughs when I tell him this and says that I have been reading too many newspaper stories. I look puzzled and ask “which newspaper stories?”. In point of fact, this is the first I’ve heard of what is becomming a nationaly known problem with some statins in certain patients. Upon seeing my expression, he agrees that I should switch back to Lipitor.

    The Crestor Collective bug me with a letter every two weeks for a couple of months to tell me their records (their records?) indicate I haven’t bought any Crestor. I’m tempted to respond that the drug makes me forget to buy it, and perhaps they need to go back to the drawing board. I don’t, because I’m sure it has already occured to more than one marketing droid that what they really need is an addictive form of Crestor. No sense in feeding the fires.

    Steve (I think. I just took some Crestor and can’t remember)

  24. Roxysteve says:

    Stephen M (Ethesis) Says:
    “took anti-malaria pills once. Side-effects included: vomiting, diarrhea, sickness, sweating, exhaustion.. on and on. By the end of the list you might as well have HAD malaria!”

    Except, of course, malaria is pretty much forever, until you die, once you have it.

    I knew a guy who was stationed in Burma in WWII. His unit ran out of quinine, and everyone in it except him went down with malaria. The regimental medical officer was baffled (a malaria-proof soldier would have been a real asset in WWII since quinine was always in short supply) and took some pains to find out why, but never did.

    Until demob day.

    Alan was walking across the parade ground eating a lemon like an apple. The Medical Officer stopped him and asked him if he always did that. Alan said yes he did. He loved lemons (go figure). The MO asked if they had lemons in the jungle. Alan replied that that was about all they did have, army supply priorities being what they were and are (need ammo? Have some condoms!). The MO slapped his head an yelled “that’s it!”

    Alan ate so much lemon that his sweat was acid (Azathoth knows what it did to his insides). The female mossies wouldn’t come near him as a result.

    I doubt there was any use in the data though. Forcing squaddies to eat so many raw lemons a day would probably incite them to mutiny.

    Steve.

  25. Mrs T says:

    I find a few games of sudoku (on an easy setting) or patience have a calming effect and help me sleep. My theory is that without it, my brain is busy fretting over all the day’s crap, but that a sorting game ‘overwrites’ the mental RAM. Probably the same thing as counting sheep. Worth a try, anyway. :)

  26. Roxysteve says:

    Stark Says:
    Frankly I find this, and indeed the entire phenomenon of direct advertising of prescription meds, to be more than a bit distrubing. The fact that you had to search, and search fairly hard at that, to find out what should be the most basic and up front information about a mind altering drug is scary to me.

    Call me silly but I still think the guy in the white coat with roughly a decade of sepcialized education is in a better position to decide what potentially dangerous madication I should use to treat my medical issues without me, the arm chair physician who can maybe spell biochemistry but has zero understanding of it, telling him the “TeeVee told me this here magic pill would fix me up right good so that’s what I want!” This does happen, quite alot, ask your doctor.

    It’s asinine to advertise this stuff on TV – send the literature to the docs, the hospitals and the health groups. Include the literature that shows the efficacy of your drug and it’s side effects, contra-indications and likely best candidates for treatment… but please, do not suggest to the general populace that they can better determine which drug is right for them based of TV ads.

    Amen to that. I often end up yelling at the stupid idiot conversationally informing me that I shouldn’t take their (by prescription only) candy if I am nursing, expecting a baby, trying to have a baby, trying to talk some woman into practicing making a baby, driving (while having a baby) or don’t appreciate migraine headaches and a tendency to yell “Penguin!” in public places.

    Although I confess the warning about priaprism at the end of Cialis ads always cracks me up. Let’s face it, most guys wouldn’t actually recognize this as a bad thing for a good hour or so, more a gift from the Gods. “Hey honey, look what I can do!” After the four hours the commercial speaks of, most men would have sent to the ER with exhaustion by their finally sated SOs.

    Steve.

  27. Roxysteve says:

    blahdroolblither been sent to the ER prostrate with blahblahblither

    Another win for Crestor.

    Steve.

  28. Deoxy says:

    Having both taken anti-malaria medication AND had malaria, I would DEFINITELY choose the malaria medication, at least until I knew for certain what the side effects of that particular medication were (and I’d try another anti-malarial medication if the first 50 didn’t work out).

    Malaria is BAD BAD BAD BAD stuff. And yes, once you’ve had it, it can come back to visit at random for th rest of your life. SO MUCH FUN!

    Oh, and eating lemons like that tends to be REALLY bad on your teeth… but otherwise good for you in many ways.

    As to drugs and marketing: I think MUCH better us of those dollars would be paying doctors directly to learn about them – take a small class, take a quiz afterwards to prove you paid attention, get money. Taking them out to the golf course, giving them nice dinners, etc, might make them THINK of your product, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right product for the job.

    Of course, part of the problem is that many of these new drugs are VERY slight improvements on the old, so they basically need to get this new drug to be considered the default drug for the condition, or it won’t get used at all.

  29. “doubt there was any use in the data though. Forcing squaddies to eat so many raw lemons a day would probably incite them to mutiny.”

    Some people take enough vitamin C that they sweat it — same effect. I always thought it wasn’t a safe way to push the pesky critters off, but it does work.

  30. gedece says:

    Clasicall drugs work that way, you might want to check Unicist Homepathy sites to learn about that practice. The idea is to check your overall condition trough a really long live session, and then you get a medicine that’s made just for you from natural products. As it adresses all your problems and just that, it has no side effects.

    My mother uses this kind of medicine and they work for her. I just use my body’s normal and natural healing capabilities and try to avoid any kind of medication.

  31. Roxysteve says:

    Deoxy Says:
    Oh, and eating lemons like that tends to be REALLY bad on your teeth… but otherwise good for you in many ways.

    Alan, like me, is possessed of British Teeth. Lemon juice damage is the least of his problems.

    Steve.

  32. Erin says:

    Hi all!

    Just figured I’d toss in my two cents (wicked belatedly, I know) – but you’re all yelling about how doctors don’t understand the medications. You’re darn tootin’ they don’t; but how many of you have thought about your pharmacists? That’s the entire reason they’re there, and the entire reason they go to school for 6 years and very nearly have that “ph.d in organic chemistry”, so that they can explain all of these medications (old and new!) to both you and your doctors (and, goodness, it’s much harder than you’d think to switch between explaining something to a doctor, who understands different terminology, to a patient who understands normal speak!).

    In essence, don’t worry about drug ads (though I despise them just as much, but not as much as the gossip about “natural remedies” – any of you read SciAm? Look up their article on Airborne and tell me you’d ever take any of that hogwash again). There’re people here looking out for you.

    ~Erin

  33. It is now 5:00 a.m. I have taken 6 klonopin throughout the evening. i am so restless and wide awake that i don’t know what to do. However, in 3 hours, I face 150 students during classes throughout the day. I wish I had seconal or tuinal to just put me out instead of this candy the doctor gives me. Is there relief. I don’t drink caffeine, eat chocolate, i’m not worried about anything in particular. I need some help. If you have seconal or tuinal, please write me.

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