Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Revlimid Paper Chase

No doubt you are used to getting a bit of paper whenever you go to the local pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Nowadays typically there is included with even the most seemingly innocuous of nostrums a "Medication Guide", printed on fan-folded tissue paper, that describes, unreadably and at considerable length, how to take the stuff; how not to take the stuff; all the bad things that could happen, maybe, if you dare to take the stuff; what to do and whom to call if any of these bad things happen; and so on.

But you never, ever read any of this mind-numbing material. Am I right?

News flash: This stuff isn't for you, the patient; it's for every one else involved in the process of delivering the products of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex. It's a liability-limitation mechanism. If something bad happens to you as a result of swallowing a few billion milligrams of Skeezix 100mg tabs, and an ambulance-chaser persuades you to sue the manufacturer, the defense's attorney will want to know whether the plaintiff actually read all this stuff, as required, and fully understood the risks involved. No? Well then: Your honor, this is clearly a deplorable example of the irresponsible misuse of a product the safety of which, when used as directed, has repeatedly been demonstrated blah blah blah.

Every 28 days the UPS man brings a little box to my door. It contains a plastic bottle containing 28 pills, and a quantity of paper. Some of the paper is packing material. But there is also the usual Medication Guide... and 16 standard 8-1/2x11 pages of additional stuff, mostly identical every time, and mostly recycled without much ceremony by yours truly:

An invoice (one page), in the quantity of my minuscule co-pay. The true invoice, for something like $10000, is not included; that is sent to the medical insurance company. I can see it only if I log into my account on the medical insurance web site.

"Important Drug Information" (4 pages). In effect a reprise of the material of the standard Medication Guide, but organized in a different manner, and "personalized" with my name, my oncologist's name, my pharmacy account number, etc.

"Medication Guide" (3 pages). Yet another copy, in a different format, of exactly the same material as the Medication Guide mentioned above.

"General Information about Cancer" (7 pages). Answers such burning questions as "Are there cancer treatment side effects?" (Ummm... Yeah.); and "Do I need to finish my chemotherapy even if I feel better?" (Nah, that's for sissies, pilgrim. But the last page warns against doing anything without asking your doctor first. So we're covered, counselor.)

And finally, a whole page of "Helpful Information Regarding Your Prescription", including such gold as "How do I convert the convertible cap to a non-safety cap for easy opening?".

What a comfort it is, to know this is possible.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all your blogging. I'm so happy I read this piece tonight. I'm about to pop my first 10mg of Revlimid (maintenance therapy, I was given Bortezomib and Cyclophosphamide with Dexamethosone for induction therapy) but earlier I had read the "consumer information" and felt like I need to flush the whole pack down the drain. Pulmonary Embolism is a "common" side effect i.e. death is a "common" side effect, give me a break. I've been told what you wrote here in the past about drug companies CYA but I needed to be reminded again, thanks!