Why do I have to worry about medications killing me?
Call me crazy, but nowadays simple things like, oh say Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts have strict ingredient labeling guidelines. Before you make a major life decision like eating a Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tart, you can simply read the box and see the following information:
ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), BROWN SUGAR, SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL (WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS), CORN SYRUP, DEXTROSE, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CRACKER MEAL, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF SALT, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CINNAMON, WHEAT STARCH, GELATIN, CARAMEL COLOR, SOY LECITHIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), FOLIC ACID.
CONTAINS WHEAT AND SOY INGREDIENTS.
However, prescription medications, which are apparently far less important to health and well being than Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts, have few if any ingredient labeling requirements.
I've been recovering from a bout with the flu and ended up with a parting gift of bronchitis or some such thing. Having survived the flu without doing the doctors office routine I was finally forced to go visit the re-contamination ward (otherwise known as my primary care physician's waiting room) and dutifully sit and read old copies of Redbook, Highlights, and 'Aging Golfer' magazines while I waited for an hour and a half.
After serving my time in purgatory, I had my 7 minute visit with the doc. And was prescribed the standard Z-Pack. Problem solved. Target Pharmacy filled my prescription with the generic version, Azithromycin, manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Being the responsible celiac, I promptly visited the Teva USA website to figure out what ingredients are in these little red pills. Anyway, unless my fever and general wooziness prevented me from finding basic ingredient and allergen information, there was no readily apparent useful information to be found. For all I know, those little red pills could be manufactured with 100% pure gluten concentrate and topped with yeast roll shavings.
Next step. I checked the patient information sheet included with the medication. For those of you not familiar, a patient information sheet is the eighth wonder of the modern world. This is where, through advanced nuclear fusion technology, 16,837 words are digitally encrypted with an ancient latin language derivative and micro-printed on a piece of rice paper. Unfolded, this paper covers 1/3 of a standard size football field, but through a steam-powered compression process, it's folded 412 times so it can fit into a standard sized medication box. It's truly a miracle of modern medical science that makes me proud to live in this country.
Buried in the middle of this mess, I found a listing of inactive ingredients in my Azithromycin tablets. Of particular interest to me was this one: Pregelatinized Starch.
Now mind you, all of this happened at about 9pm at night, so calling Teva was not an option until the following morning. So, at risk of adding a glutening attack to my already high misery index, I went ahead and took the red pills.
I lucked out. First thing the following morning, I called Teva and quickly got the information I needed. The pregelatiized starch is corn based and to the 'best of their knowledge' (lawyer speak) their Azithromycin is in fact gluten free.
Is it really too much to ask drug manufacturers to list the ingredients that sick people are ingesting? After all, Pop Tarts manages to do it. Companies who can repeatedly perform the miracle of creating patient information sheets and stuffing them into those itty-bitty boxes should certainly be able to write down the stuff they throw in that steaming cauldron of medicinal goodness. Am I crazy?