The race to rake in as many billions as possible from drug sales doesn’t stop when a drug gets approved. That’s because the really big pot of gold is waiting just a stone’s throw from the pharmacy counter on an easy-to-reach shelf… or an online pharmacy, where you don’t need to show a prescription.
I’m talking about the more and more common practice of prescription-to-over the counter switch. It’s Big Pharma’s dream come true… and as expected, it’s potentially a patient’s worst nightmare.
Bait and switch
One of these drugs, Oxytrol (for an overactive bladder), was one of the first drugs that the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed to become available over the
Many experts were shocked when Oxytrol was approved last year as an easy-to-use skin patch. Even the FDA’s own advisory panel didn’t think it was safe enough to be sold over the counter.
Oxybutynin – the prescription version of Oxytrol – has plenty of side effects, but it seems that most of them “mysteriously” went missing as soon as this drug was given the over-the-counter (OTC) all clear under a new name – Oxytrol.
In fact, the FDA seemed more concerned about whether consumers could “understand the information” on the package than about who should take the drug.
Unfortunately, what consumers really need to know about this drug never made it onto the package. Aside from “gastric retention,” dry mouth, headaches, and a potentially life-threatening swelling of your lips, tongue and throat (cautions you’ll find on prescription oxybutynin), there’s another warning that’s gone astray.
It’s about a side effect that can ruin your life.
One user says the drug turned her “brain to mush.” Another describes “mental fuzziness” and depression. Another was referred to a psychiatrist because she was depressed, confused and having a lot of trouble remembering things. But at least for this patient, the specialist connected the dots with oxybutynin.
After stopping the drug, she improved “right away.” She said that “I never even tied the two together. The bladder and the head are rather far apart!”
But despite the distance between your bladder and your head, drugs like Oxytrol can make the trip. They are called anticholinergics, and work by blocking a nerve “messenger.”
For many, this blockade can cause mental problems, like confusion and psychotic reactions that might sound like diseases with similar symptoms… like Alzheimer’s, for instance… and if you’re older, you may be especially susceptible.
But here’s the worst part.
The “disease” this dangerous drug is sold for – overactive bladder – wasn’t one discovered by doctors, scientists or researchers, but rather by a drug company’s marketing department.
Overactive bladder was actually the brainchild of a “Mad Man” named Neil Wolf who worked for a drug company later purchased by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Wolf needed to come up with a way to expand a condition called “urge incontinence” to sell more of his company’s drug. The market for people who had this problem of accidently “peeing in their pants” wasn’t big enough to sell millions of pills.
So Wolf’s idea was to make the market bigger. He rebranded the condition to include those who just had a strong urge to make lots of trips to the bathroom.
Overactive bladder has become almost a household word by now. Thanks to Neil Wolf, just about everyone has heard of it.
But unfortunately, not everyone has heard about the side effects these drugs can cause.
Especially the mind-blowing effects from one that’s now as easy to buy as a stick of chewing gum.
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“Will bladder drug scramble your synapses?” Joe Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy, peoplespharmacy.com
“A full night’s sleep can really pay off “in salary and investments” Brett Arends, September 18, 2014, The Wall Street Journal, online.wsj.com