Fun_People Archive
29 Feb

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 100 23:49:57 -0800
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: Side-Effects?

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Forwarded-by: Keith Sullivan <>


There's a stupid ad for some medical product, which says "In clinical
trials, the most common side effect was headache."

A curiously evasive and meaningless statement.  The moment I heard it, I

immediately realized that the lab results must have looked something like

   Side effect                       Incidence
   -----------                       ---------
   Headache                             99%
   Massive brain hemorrhage             98%
   Malignant cancer of the genitals     92%
   Tertiary syphilis                    85%
   Windows NT                           76%
   Smallpox                             40%
   Death of one kidney                  33%
   Explosive cranial dispersal          20%
   Total body ionization                11%

So beware.

Jennifer Barts <>
Berry Kercheval <>
Nev Dull <>


By Art Buchwald (October 28, 1999)

The first time my tennis elbow started acting up, I remembered I had seen
an advertisement for a cure in Time magazine.

I went down to my magazine dealer, Louie, and when he found out why I wanted
to buy Time he said, "That's Pheladelrin.  You can't buy it without a
prescription.  On the other hand, Newsweek is advertising Betamotomotor.
But they say it isn't for everybody.  Some people who have taken it have
had their fingers fall off."

I asked Louie, "What would you recommend for tennis elbow?"

"The New Yorker has a six-page spread on T-scalpin.  But the ad says you
can't buy it unless three doctors want to give it to you."

"What about Vogue magazine?" I asked him.

"They're featuring a French drug called Quelle Chance.  It not only can
cure you but it will make your hair grow again."

"Louie, you're really up on these prescription drugs."

"You have to be if you're in the magazine business.  Ever since the
prescription drug companies started advertising products you cannot buy
over the counter, we news vendors have become essential to the health care
of the public.

"The first thing I do when the latest magazine comes in is check it out
and see what the cure for an ailment is.  For example, a fellow came in
for a lottery ticket the other day and started complaining because he had
a terrible migraine headache.  I immediately prescribed a copy of Playboy
magazine, which was advertising Platopain Plus."

"Did you hear if he got the medicine?"

"His doctor wouldn't give it to him.  He said he preferred the pain killer
being advertised in Vanity Fair."

"You really provide a public service," I said.

"I love what I do.  If I can find a cure for asthma in Bride magazine, I'm

"Are there any side effects to the medicine being advertised in Newsweek?"

"There are always side effects to prescription drugs.  Besides your fingers
falling off, in some cases you wind up with Lyme disease, contracted from
ticks that live on the cotton in the bottle."

"What's the antidote?"

"I believe it's advertised in Money magazine."

I told Louie, "The problem with finding a satisfactory drug in a magazine
is that you might also find a better drug advertised on television."

"My doctor is very careful about what he prescribes.  He makes sure when
he gives somebody something from Good Housekeeping that it does the job
better than what they're pitching on 'Monday Night Football.'"

(c) Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times Syndicate


By Dave Barry, The Miami Herald, June 19, 1998

Recently I was lying on the sofa and watching my favorite TV show, which
is called, "Whatever Is on TV When I'm Lying on the Sofa."  I was in a good
mood until the commercial came on.  It showed an old man (and when I say
"old man," I mean "a man who is maybe eight years older than I am") helping
his grandson learn to ride a bicycle.

I was watching this, wondering what product was being advertised (Bicycles?
Dietary fiber?  Lucent?) and the announcer said:  "Aren't there enough
reasons in your life to talk to your doctor about Zocor?"

The announcer did not say what "Zocor" is.  It sounds like the evil ruler
of the Planet Wombax.  I figure it's a medical drug, although I have no
idea what it does.  And so, instead of enjoying my favorite TV show, I was
lying there wondering if I should be talking to my doctor about Zocor.  My
doctor is named Curt, and the only time I go to his office is when I am
experiencing a clear-cut medical symptom, such as an arrow sticking out of
my head.  So mainly I see Curt when I happen to sit near him at a sporting
event, and he's voicing medical opinions such as, "HE STINKS!" and "CAN
YOU BELIEVE HOW BAD THIS GUY STINKS??"  This would not be a good time to
ask him what he thinks about Zocor ("IT STINKS!").

Television has become infested with commercials for drugs that we're
supposed to ask our doctors about.  Usually the announcer says something
scary like, "If you're one of the 337 million people who suffer from
parabolical distabulation of the frenulum, ask your doctor about Varvacron.
Do it now.  Don't wait until you develop boils the size of fondue pots."

At that point, you're thinking, "Gosh, I better get some Varvacron!"

Then the announcer tells you the side effects.

"In some patients," he says, "Varvacron causes stomach discomfort and the
growth of an extra hand coming out of the forehead.  Also, one patient
turned into a lemur.  Do not use Varvacron if you are now taking, or have
recently shaken hands with anybody who is taking, Fladamol, Lavadil,
Fromagil, Havadam, Lexavon, Clamadam, Gungadin or breath mints.  Discontinue
use if your eyeballs suddenly get way smaller.  Pregnant women should not
even be watching this commercial."

So basically, the message of these drug commercials is:

1. You need this drug.

2. This drug might kill you.

I realize that the drug companies, by running these commercials, are trying
to make me an informed medical consumer.  But I don't WANT to be an informed
medical consumer.  I liked it better when my only medical responsibility
was to stick out my tongue.  That was the health-care system I grew up
under, which was called "The Dr. Mortimer Cohn Health Care System," named
for my family doctor when I was growing up in Armonk, N.Y.

Under this system, if you got sick, your mom took you to see Dr. Cohn, and
he looked at your throat, then he wrote out a prescription in a Secret
Medical Code that neither you nor the CIA could understand.  The only person
who could understand it was Mr. DiGiacinto, who ran the Armonk Pharmacy,
where you went to get some mystery pills and a half-gallon of Sealtest
chocolate ice cream, which was a critical element of this health-care
system.  I would never have dreamed of talking to Dr. Cohn about Zocor or
any other topic, because the longer you stayed in his office, the greater
the danger that he might suddenly decide to give you a "booster shot."

We did have TV commercials for medical products back then, but these were
non-scary, straightforward commercials that the layperson could understand.
For example, there was one for a headache remedy -- I think it was Anacin
-- that showed the interior of an actual cartoon of a human head, so you
could see the three medical causes of headaches:  a hammer, a spring and
a lightning bolt.  There was a commercial for Gleem toothpaste with Gardol,
which had strong medical benefits, as proven by the fact that when a
baseball player threw a ball at the announcer's head, it (the ball) bounced
off an Invisible Protective Shield.  There was a commercial for a product
called "Serutan."  I was never sure what it did, but it was definitely
effective, because the announcer came right out and stated -- bear in mind
that the Food and Drug Administration has never disputed this claim -- that
"Serutan" is "natures" spelled backward.

You, the medical consumer, were not required to ask your doctor about any
of these products.  You just looked at the commercial and said, "A hammer!
No wonder my head aches!"  And none of these products had side effects,
except Gleem, which, in addition to deflecting baseballs, attracted the
opposite sex.

I miss those days, when we weren't constantly being nagged to talk to our
doctors, and we also didn't have a clue how many grams of fat were in our
Sealtest chocolate ice cream.  Life was simpler then, as opposed to now,
when watching TV sometimes makes me so nervous that I have to consume a
certain medical product.  I know it's effective, because it's "reeb" spelled

Copyright (c) 1998 The Miami Herald

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