Thursday, March 12, 2009

Marching orders for Maggie

Must have blasted one-third of my body weight in secretions out of my nose on Wednesday.

I missed the memo that stated that radiation therapy commonly wreaks havoc on the mucous membranes. The doc on duty in the Radiation and Oncology Department at Kaiser last night said there's not a lot that I can do about the situation but make like Dizzy Gillespie and blow.

But I didn't go home stuffy-headed and empty-handed. To relieve the scratchy throat that I'm also dealing with, the doctor wrote a prescription for hydrocodone bitartrate/acetaminophen.

That drug is new to me, so I wanted to make sure that it was safe to use with everything else I'm pouring down my G-tube. As the pharmacist handed the bottle to me, he explained that hydrocodone bitartrate/acetaminophen is just a high-falutin' name for cough syrup.

Are you wondering what I'm wondering?

Why is the name on the label hydrocodone bitartrate/acetaminophen –long enough to wrap around the bottle twice– instead of a three-syllable moniker that uses a fraction of the number of letters, and carries the same meaning?

When my head is feeling stuffy and I'm worn down from cancer treatments, I'm the guy who's least capable of getting complicated medication names right.

Well, maybe the incoming commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration can do something about this situation.

This week, President Obama is expected to name Margaret Hamburg as his choice as head of the FDA. After clearing Senate confirmation, the first item on Commissioner Hamburg's agenda should be to call on the pharmaceutical industry to re-label all of their products with new names that roll more easily off the consumer's tongue.

Dr. Hamburg, when the Senate grills you about your qualifications to regulate Big Pharma, fire back with these spiffy ideas to show those senators you're just the right public servant to get us out of this pickle.

  • Recycle cast-off brands

    As U.S. automakers drive themselves off a cliff and into oblivion, no one has yet addressed what to do with all of those obsolete yet drug-label ready auto brand names that will soon start clogging linguistic landfills.

    Why not re-purpose those auto names for the still-thriving pharmaceutical industry?

    How easy it would be to remember that Hummers are the pills we take for hemorrhoids, Fusions are what we swallow to fight food poisoning, and Saturns are just the right remedy to cure seasonal affective disorder.

  • One label, one name

    Took me years before I finally caught on that Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers and Eminem were all the same guy.

    It's no less challenging for me to keep the characters in my medicine cabinet straight.

    Let's put Big Pharma on a diet. No more giving every drug from acetaminophen to zonisamide dual identities, one generic and one brand. We're dealing with chemicals, not superheroes.

    Unfortunately, the Commissioner-to-be goes by the names Margaret and Peggy and probably Maggie, too, so she may not be the right public leader to champion this reform.

    Well, we can at least get Big Pharma to trim the woolier drug names down to a consumer-friendly portions. No more drug names that are designed to make us gag when we try to pronounce them and are good only for producing high Scrabble scores.

  • Med moniker makeovers

    Longtime readers of Thinking Positive know of my queer fixation on anagrams.

    Well, last night I got a pair of scissors and some glue and anagramized all of the drugs in my medicine cabinet. I'm here to tell you that anagrams just may be the Rx to cure drug-labeling madness.

    Here's how some of the labels in my medicine cabinet read by the time I was through: Vein of Rot, A Bitter Rat, Resonant Nod; Alive in Mud; Cause a Vital Barf; and Reap Zits.

    Those names are way easier to keep straight in my head than tenofovir, bitartrate, ondansetron, lamivudine, abacavir sulfate, and prezista.

    Another one of my drugs anagramizes to Do a Horny Coed. That's just silly.

So there you go, Commissioner Hamburg. Go after Big Pharma! And do so with relish!

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