We all enjoy a good laugh at those lengthy lists of side effects noted in bizarre television commercials for prescription drugs, but ultimately the joke’s on us. Every $1 spent on prescription drug advertising brings $1.40 in sales, according to analyst John Busbice of IMS Consulting. Whether or not the drug’s effective in treating your illness, the ads are certainly effective in generating substantial revenue.
So when you see a drug commercial and ask “Why would they mention all those awful side effects?,” remember two things: They are legally obligated to do so, and they are raking in money in spite of that.
We’d never heard of AstraZeneca’s Seroquel XR until the other night, when a 90-second commercial aired in the middle of one of our stories. The first 24 seconds explain why you might need it — bipolar depression — and the rest of time lists the many ways this drug can kill you. Keep in mind when you watch this ad that sales of Seroquel totaled $3.1 billion in 2009, according to DrugPatentWatch.
Let’s break this down:
When you’re living with bipolar depression, it’s easy to feel like you’re fading into the background. That’s because bipolar depression doesn’t just affect you, it can consume you. One option proven effective to treat bipolar depression is Seroquel XR. For many, it’s one pill once a day.
It seems that the leading symptom of bipolar depression is the inability to wear a shirt with a pattern different than your couch. But don’t worry, one pill once a day (“for many”; others will have guzzle them down like a fresh tube of Pez) will help you muster the energy to walk over to the wardrobe and pick out a fancy new blouse that’s been specially Bedazzled by AstraZeneca’s in-house “rhinestone artisans.”
Here’s some important safety information you should be aware of: Call your doctor if you have unusual changes in thought, mood, or thoughts of suicide.
Ahh, our first reference to how this drug may lead to your death. If you’re so naturally depressed that you need this medication, it’s possible that taking this drug will actually commit you to ending your life. That’s what doctors should call “the self-fulfilling prescription.”
Anti-depressants can increase these in children, teens, and young adults.
Yup, your kids will be at greater risk of death as well.
Elderly dementia patients taking Seroquel XR have an increased risk of death.
And forget about your grandparents taking this drug — they’re as good as dead.
Call your doctor if you develop fever, stiff muscles, and confusion, as these may be signs of a life-threatening reaction.
Fever and stuff muscles we can deal with. But confusion? Instead of blending into my couch and the well-stocked aisles at the grocery we’re going to be walking around all day not remembering where we parked the car, or whether we even drove the car to the grocery in the first place?
And how many euphemisms is AstraZeneca going to use in order to tell us we might die from taking their product? A “life-threatening reaction” is just a fancy way of saying “increased risk of death,” no?
…or if you have uncontrollable muscle movements as these could become permanent.
So, okay, maybe we won’t die, but we might have uncontrollable muscle movements for the rest of our spastic lives? What’s that look like? We’re just standing there one minute, then kicking people’s shins and elbowing their pets the next? Hey, as long as we’re smiling while doing it, amirite?
High blood sugar has been reported with Seroquel XR and medicines like it, and in extreme cases can lead to coma or death.
So now we’re dealing with thoughts of suicide, suicide among children and teens, increased risk of death among the elderly, a life-threatening reaction and the potential for “coma or death.” Sounds like a winner.
Tell your doctor if you have a history of low white blood cell count or seizures. Your doctor should check for cataracts. Other risks include increased cholesterol and triglycerides, weight gain, dizziness when standing, drowsiness, impaired judgment, and trouble swallowing.
Know this: You might be a little happier every day, but your cholesterol will shoot up, you’ll be fat as fuck, you can’t stand without feeling dizzy (hey, you’re already confused), you’re constantly tired, you won’t be about to make sound decisions, and…wait, trouble swallowing?! How the hell are we supposed to get the pill down if the pill makes it so we can’t swallow? It’s the ultimate Catch-22!
Use caution before driving or operating machinery.
Good point. Usually the first thing we do when we’re dizzy, tired and confused is drive to the Bronx and join the construction crew to knock down the old Yankee Stadium. Noted.
Like most ads, this commercial then ends with some generic information. We realize these are extreme side effects, and the drug largely helps the patients that take it, but the absurdity of these televised brochures never fails to amuse. the kicker comes from the Seroquel XR website, which states that you should not go off the medication without consulting a doctor because doing so can cause more or worse side effects. Now that’s some juicy afters for you.
Here’s one patient’s experience with Seroquel (not XR, just the regs) from Askapatient.com: “This is a dangerous medication. It is very addictive. I stopped taking it with my doctors consent and developed severe side effects of headaches and nausea. My appetite was beyond anything reasonable. I gained substantial weight, however as soon as one day upon quitting, my appetite was gone. However, I find that I am ADDICTED to it and don’t know what to do, because upon quitting it, the side effects from quitting it were far worse then the excessive weight gain. Moreover, as soon as I started back up, my muscle cramps commenced and my arthritis problems, which seemed to disappear when I stopped it, returned almost immediately. I’m damned if I take it and damned in trying to quit it. My doctor tried another medication when he took me off it, but it’s addiction properties kicked in and I couldn’t get out of bed, having severe headaches and nausea. It should never have been prescribed, but I’m boxed into a corner now and don’t know what to do?”
Depression is not really a laughing matter, and we’re not having a laugh at the expense of people with bipolar depression or any facsimile. But commercials about depression are often hilarious.