Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Son of Return of Satan's Tic-Tacs

So I've started the newest dip in my Effexor dose. Effexor, for those of you who haven't played along until now, is now nicknamed "Satan's Tic-Tacs." They are pills that will fix you, and then when you try to get off them it's as bad as coming off smack....

...or so I've heard. I've never used smack, so I don't have firsthand knowledge, but I know people in low places who assure me they'd rather quit smack and smoking in the same week than stop Effexor cold.

The manufacturers of Effexor weren't being terribly forthcoming in telling people about this nasty side effect (though they do have some info up on the FDA website [pp8 &9]) . I can understand why they might not want to trumpet news of the withdrawal heebie-jeebies on Good Morning America, but the company should at least tell doctors that this can get pretty sucky, so they can in turn tell their patients that the symptoms they have while reducing Effexor is not proof of returned craziness. What kinds of symptoms do I mean? Oh, let's see:
  • dysphoric mood,
  • irritability,
  • agitation,
  • dizziness,
  • sensory disturbances [note: these include "brain shocks" described by a LOT of people coming off Effexor]
  • anxiety,
  • confusion,
  • headache,
  • lethargy,
  • emotional lability,
  • insomnia,
  • hypomania,
  • tinnitus, and
  • seizures
They forgot nausea, vomiting, and what one Effexorite refers to as "the explosive shits." Oh, and my favorite, myoclonic jerks -- those weird, sudden full-body jerks as you are in early stages of sleep. Oh, and I have a hell of a startle reflex, and I'm grinding my teeth like mad again.

They also forgot a very rare side effect that Wyeth refers to as "withdrawal syndrome." IOW, the patient, once on Effexor, cannot stop taking the drug. They're hooked for life. That's scary.

My drop from 300 mg to 225 mg was pretty spectacular. I had all of the side effects except seizures, and even that's possible since I was sleeping 20 hours out of the day. The drop from 225 to 150 slightly less interesting. The drop from 150 to 75 mg is shaping up to be middling. Since dropping my dose, I'd been a champion sleeper up to tonight...when I can't get to sleep. Luckily, I'm not employed, so I can just kind of ride along with whatever Effexor is doing.

On the plus side, I have had a few vivid dreams, one of which involved snogging someone cool. The vivid dreams side effect is a pretty good one, as these things go.

So that's medical life in Heatherland. I'm having a nice drink to see if it helps me get some zzzz's. If the Effexor withdrawal weirdness does get too bad, I may call the doc and ask for 10 mg Prozac to help; it's the newest thing to help people coming off Effexor. Prozac is a cinch to discontinue, so it may be an option if I need it.

Things are good here, all things considered. I'm coming off Satan's Tic-Tacs, slowly but surely. I have a neato vehicle with a sunroof, and it's the perfect time of year to drive around with your windows and sunroof open. Things should work themselves out okay.

But I'm still pissed off at Wyeth! Fuckers!

Friday, April 11, 2008

CFC-Free Inhalers Don't Work.

The FDA has banned asthma inhalers that contain CFCs because, obviously, the hole in the ozone layer was caused by rampant use of asthma rescue inhalers and has nothing to do with industry or anything big like that. So now millions of asthmatics have been forced to change inhalers to the CFC-free variety -- which cost twice as much and simply don’t work as well.

There are over 22 million asthmatics in the country, and asthma is a disease that hits the poor – especially poor children – especially hard. Also, 47 million Americans don’t have insurance – and people with chronic health problems such as asthma are more likely to be uninsured. So now, instead of about $20 per inhaler out-of-pocket, poor and uninsured people will pay about $40 out-of-pocket.

Twice as much, for a product that consumers are reporting doesn’t work as well. Several websites discuss the ineffectiveness of the new inhalers, and people around the country have posted the same problems with the new inhalers.

This has been my experience, too. I use the new inhaler (a ProAir HFA), hold my breath, breathe out, and wait. I wait about five minutes, and 9 times out of 10, I need another “puff.” With the old inhaler, I generally only needed one puff. With the new ones, I’m using one to three puffs. Yes, I know how to “correctly” use an inhaler; yes, I have tried a “spacer” -- it didn’t help. So, essentially, we now have a rescue inhaler that doesn’t “rescue” you very well and costs twice as much.

I used the old-style inhaler for twenty-seven years and did fine with them. The one I carried in my purse would last 3 to 4 months. The one around the house would last about six weeks (I’m still looking for an asthma preventative that really works). Now? I go through both inhalers in a month or less.

I’m also not buying that the ban was to “help the environment” since the FDA’s own website states that the ban ONLY affects albuterol rescue inhalers. If you use another kind of medication to stop your asthma attacks, there’s been no change. It's also generally agreed that CFC inhalers are not an environmental concern!

If I were a cynic, I'd say that the problem is that albuterol inhalers have been generic for a long time, and pharma needed to make some cash off them, and this was a convenient way to do so under the benign guise of "helping the environment." But that would be wrong.

Asthmatics were forced into these inhalers by the government, and are paying for them out of our pockets and with a reduced ability to stop an asthma attack. Why are more of us not complaining? It’s our LUNGS, people! This shit could kill you!

Asthma inhalers didn't cause the hole in the ozone layer any more than disposable contact lenses caused the landfill problems. Frankly, we are being forced to use a product that doesn’t work, and it’s negatively affecting our health. Demand that industry bring back the rescue inhalers that WORK until the industry finds a solution that works and doesn’t cost twice as much to the consumers.

This petition is to help bring back the old CFC inhalers that we’ve all used for so long. Please, sign it, and help out. If you feel really emphatic, contact your congresscritter as well. And to really, really help, complain to the FDA about the new inhalers at the FDA's website!