Monday, 28 November 2011

Data Sheets

The was a time when the best you could expect from your packet of aspirin was an instruction printed on the outside that told you to take two when you had a headache. Half dose for children and the elderly. Just who the elderly were it did not say. It’s nothing like that now.

When I finally get round to it and unpack the Package Leaflet: Information for the User sheets that lie, folded and fierce at the bottom of my various packets of dope I know I’m in for the long haul. Set aside a few hours for consideration of the instructions it should warn on the packets’ outsides. I reach for my glasses and settle down.

The drug manufacturers, naturally, are trying here to protect themselves. They get into things in depth, as if this were some sort of EU regulatory obligation and this was the discussion appendix attached to an order in council or the support data for ministerial decision or, better, the scientific justification for a conclusion come to in thermodynamics, super string theory or cosmology. The clauses, sub-clauses and numbered and bulleted points proliferate before my eyes.

I learn vital things. Omeprazole can be administered by breaking open the capsule and pouring the content into a pot of yoghurt. The stuff is good for Helicobacter Pylori and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome as well as something described as the inhibition of the proton pump. There are a few E numbers in the capsule shell and then Oxide E172 along with Propylene Glycol in the ink used to print the manufacture’s name. Dr Reddy. Good man. Comes from Hull.

Most of the sheets are single pieces of paper but not those that come with Prednisolone. These go on for ages. They include warnings against just about every eventuality from falling down the stairs to having your face inflate the size of a Belisha Beacon and have a list of possible side effects long enough to unsettle even the most unconcerned of users. Are these things going to happen? And how many of them? Will they all occur at once? What will it be like going down the road sweating, with brittle bones, thinning of the eye tissue, painfully itchy skin nodules, weak arms and a humped back?

The more I read the more concerned I become. As a device to cover legal backs the sheets may be fine but in terms of patient care and support they are hopeless. You need a course in tranquilisers just to overcome the anxiety caused by the warnings.

I look a few things up on the internet. The results are worse. Everything is the end of the world. The dreadful always happens. It’s worse in America than here. Where NHS direct is circumspect and considered the US equivalent hits you hard between the see your physician immediately eyes.

I trail down to the GP’s to ask. Is all this bound to occur, I stutter? Will I turn into a slow-moving blimp constantly looking over my shoulders? She smiles. She has an excellent pull you down from walls manner. Of course not. But there may be some side-effects. We’ll have to see how it goes. Maybe they won’t affect you, they don’t affect everyone. Not everyone is the same. And anyway you need to consider all this against the background of the PMR itself. That condition is far worse. And you won’t be on the Prednisolone forever. No? No.

I get an appointment to come back in a week. Let’s see how you are then.

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