I have a friend who is allergic to peanuts, so she carries an EpiPen wherever she goes. When people catch a glimpse of the injection, it prompts inevitable Pulp Fiction jokes, but there's nothing fun about having to use an EpiPen.
Commonly known by its brand name, this epinephrine autoinjection is used to treat anaphylaxis, a sudden and severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Certain foods, such as eggs and peanuts, can cause an anaphylactic reaction, as can bee stings and certain medications, particularly penicillin. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, swelling, and itching that gives way to shortness of breath, chest tightness, and increased or irregular heartbeat.
I've always wondered what exactly an expiration date means on a drug. Does it become less effective? Could it poison me? Obviously, there's a big difference in those two things, so I was glad to see this NPR story that sheds some light on drug expiration dates.
Just because a drug is past its expiration date doesn't necessarily mean you should toss it. Many states require drug labels to carry an expiration date just one year past the date of sale, but drug manufacturers often set dates two years later, based on testing.
The FDA's Ilisa Bernstein says there are no guarantees that drugs will be effective after the expiration date but that medications stored in a cool, dry place can last much longer. Does that mean we should focus on decoding drug names and drug interactions and not worry about the expiration dates?
If the drug is used to treat something commonplace, such as headaches or heartburn, you're probably safe using it past the date. But for medications your life depends on — particularly meds for severe allergic reactions such as EpiPens — you should not use them past the expiration date.
Feeling anxious? You are not alone. Antianxiety drug Xanax is the top-popped pill among psychiatric drugs in the US, according to IMS Health's list of the 25 most prescribed psychiatric medications in 2009. Antianxiety drug Ativan jumped from the number five spot in 2005 to number three last year. Interestingly, Xanax and Ativan prescriptions were up 29 and 36 percent since 2005, while Prozac and Zoloft were down.Are doctors more likely to prescribe anxiety drugs than they used to be? Or — I'm just gonna throw this out there — perhaps the recreational and/or casual popping of antianxiety pills helps propel them to the top of the list. Andrew on Kell on Earth was keen on handing Ativan out like candy, and he's not the only one.
This doesn't necessarily mean Americans are more anxious than we are depressed. For more insight and to see the full list, read more
Chances are you've seen more prescription drug commercials than you can count — Viagra, Cymbalta, Celebrex, and Yaz are just a few that I can name from memory. The ads are pervasive and influential and pharmaceutical companies know that. From 1997 to 2005, drug companies tripled their spending in television ad campaigns from $1.3 billion to $4.2 billion. In 2006 that number bumped up even further to $4.6 billion.
Though the ads do inform consumers of what's available to them, health advocates say they present drugs and symptoms in very general terms and can confuse consumers into thinking they have something they don't. A national study found that one-third of all Americans have asked for a drug they saw on a commercial and of those that asked, 82 percent were given a prescription of some sort.
To give your opinion and hear more about this issue, read more
Concerns are being raised about the safety of the Yaz birth control pill, the top selling pill in the US, according to the New York Times. Women taking Yaz might have a higher chance of developing blood clots compared to other birth control pills, a claim that drug maker Bayer disputes. Investigation is ongoing, as are 74 lawsuits charging that Yaz and Yasmin, a similar product by Bayer, created health problems in women taking these pills. The lawsuits are tricky business though, since warnings about clots are presented in the pharmaceuticals' literature. Bayer strongly stands behind its product.
These new fears about the most commonly used contraceptive pill in America emphasize that avoiding pregnancy can be a difficult task, sometimes with medical consequences. I am curious about you . . .
“I could have killed myself. . . . Withdrawal — it's the worst thing. I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain, it was excruciating. But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been."
College students and other concentration seekers know it's not hard to score a 'script for ADHD drugs. Fidgety, disorganized, forgetful. They know the symptoms and they work the system.
But while using Ritalin and Adderall to edge out competition in school and life is nothing new (though the science journal Nature disagrees), a vocal group of scientists supporting it is. They argue that "cognitive enhancement" should no longer be a bad word because it's no different than using education, good health habits, and technology to get ahead. Another similarity? Access to prescription drugs requires a certain degree of privilege, too!
Opponents argue that it's cheating, unnatural, and on par with drug abuse. If they want to curb this trend, I recommend showing young teens Requiem For a Dream at just the right age. But until then, is it just best to accept and regulate it?
Ever been prescribed a drug by your doctor and wondered how safe or unsafe it is?
The FDA has recently begun posting a list of prescription drugs under investigation for safety problems on its site. Currently there are only about 20 meds on the list, but the FDA will continue to update it each quarter. If a medication you're currently taking is classified as under investigation, don't freak out. Continue taking your medicine as prescribed and make an appointment to talk to your doctor as the potential risks may not outweigh the benefits of taking the medicine.
For all other prescription drugs check out my new Health Guide where you'll find thousands of overviews of common medications. It's very helpful, especially if you've thrown away the little foldout pamphlet that comes with all prescriptions.
If you pass the occasional pill to your friends, you are not alone. According to a recent study published in The Journal of Women’s Health, sharing prescription drugs is common among young adults, especially 18- to 44-year-old women. The recent survey of 25,000 people found that more than one-third of the women polled shared prescription drugs with friends or took pills from their pals. The drugs included everything from allergy meds to pain pills. I'm definitely guilty of offering the occasional Allegra to friends who also take the drug, but how about you?