Baker's Oven

When doctors don’t pay attention to side effects

Question: Why don't more journalist challenge the pharmaceutical companies?
Question: Why don’t more journalists challenge the pharmaceutical companies?

A few years back I was interested in applying for the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy award.It’s an award given to a chosen journalist who wishes to undertake a research project on a key issue that affects the public.

My pitch was to dig up why the pharmaceutical industry is impervious to criticism: Why no cancer studies involve the effects of drugs on people; why doctors balk at patients who claim to suffer from side effects and how pharmaceutical corporations have grown over the years with an aging population.

It was a subject that’s near and dear to me, as being bandied about in the healthcare system, I know well enough about what certain medications can do to the body.

And what the pricetag on some medications can do to one’s bank account — especially one by the name of voriconazole.

Now my approach wasn’t all bad, but what sparked my interest in doing a little investigative journalism on the pharmaceutical industry was partially from my own experiences.

My parents have taken medication that caused have their ch’i to get screwed up.

But for me, personally, nine years ago a side effect to an epilepsy medication gave me my most embarrassing experience. That’s not embarrassing in a good, being centred out in front of the girl you like way, no this was a dark cloud.

Weeks before a trip to St. John’s, Newfoundland I passed a kidney stone. No big whoop, it just hurt like hell. In addition to that I was experiencing night terrors.

Then the anxiety hit in St. John’s, and that’s a moment I’d rather forget. For people who suffer from it on a constant basis I empathize.

However, when I did a little research, I discovered that topamax, the medication I was on, can cause anxiety, night terrors and kidney stones in people. When I approached my doctor at the time, he balked at me and blamed my side effects on something else.

Now with the physical evidence of passing a kidney stone, I was taken off the drug. But what stunned me, was the doctor’s reaction. In a world where we take allergic reactions to peanuts to a new level of nanny-state, why do doctors disbelieve patients when they start exhibiting side effects to their medication? After all, everything we ingest is merely a chemical or foreign agent into our bodies.

The good news is, I switched from topamax to keppra and haven’t had any problems of that nature since.

Sure, what’s in the air we breath, the food we eat and water we drink is of great concern. But why is it medications are overlooked. Topamax is not the only medication that has caused me grief. Having epilepsy derived from encephalitis and being susceptible to blood disorders like hemolytic anemia, aplasia and ITP is a bit of Catch-22.

That’s because most epilepsy meds cause aplasia. Ha.

All the more reason to do some investigative journalism on why side effects are swept under the rug by doctors.

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