SATIRE: An Open Letter to Whoever Writes the Disclaimers for Medications Advertised in TV Commercials

Dear Whoever:

Recently, while watching TV, I’ve noticed an abundance of commercials for medications that may address my current or future ailments. I’m vigilant about my health and anxious to ask my doctors for prescriptions, but I’d appreciate clarification about a few potential complications first.

I’d love to try Eliquis which may reduce my risk of stroke and blood clots. (I already have plaque in my arteries; more could be building up by the minute!) When I take Eliquis I understand I should look for “unusual signs of bleeding.” I worry about bleeding of any kind. What do you consider “unusual”? Bloody stool? Nose bleeds? Heavy menstrual flow? Stigmata? Exsanguination?

If I develop severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, I’m relieved I can take Otezla to achieve clearer skin. You say I should not take the drug if I’m allergic to it. How do I know I’m allergic unless I take it? Even if I’m not allergic, I may experience nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea. Some people also report weight loss—not surprising what with the vomiting and diarrhea. I’m glad the woman at the swimming pool in the commercial has no ugly, scaly skin patches or gastrointestinal problems. She looks good in that bathing suit and nothing is leaking out the bottom.

Linzess, I’ve learned, is an option for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I often worry about my bowels. If they get irritated, I’ll definitely ask for Linzess. As instructed, I won’t take it if I have a bowel blockage and I’ll get immediate help if I develop unusual or severe stomach pains. You say the most common side effect is diarrhea. What happens if I take both Linzess and Otezla? Will that double the time I spend on the toilet?

Aimovig sounds great for Migraine prevention, although side effects include injection site reaction, constipation, and rash or swelling “hours to days” after use. How many days are you thinking, Whoever? My cousin’s wedding is coming up so I’ll schedule my first injection accordingly. I’m happy the man and woman pictured at the end of the Aimovig commercial are in the clear. They gaze at the Milky Way sparkling in a cerulean sky. No rash. No swelling. And they don’t look constipated.

If I take Otezla and Aimovig together, will the diarrhea and constipation cancel each other out?

I admit I feel blue sometimes, Whoever, so I’m excited that Cymbalta treats depression symptoms. If I experience suicidal thoughts while using it, I’ll certainly call my doctor. But isn’t suicide exactly what an anti-depressant should prevent? Is suicide less likely with Rexulti, Trintellix, Paxil, Xanax or another anti-depressant with an “X” in its name? Does the “X” have special significance? If so, I’ll go with Xanax since it has two Xs and (bonus!) it’s a palindrome.

Let’s chat about Vraylar which treats acute mania of Bipolar I Disorder. I’m not bipolar now, but I like to have a medication in mind in case I’m diagnosed later. I appreciate how thorough you’ve been about possible Vraylar complications — you list 27 seconds’ worth including fever, stiff muscles, confusion, uncontrollable muscle movements, high cholesterol, weight gain, high blood sugar, decreased white blood cells, dizziness upon standing, falls, seizures, impaired judgement, heat sensitivity, and trouble swallowing. At least there’s no diarrhea. Can you recommend a drug with ten or fifteen seconds of complications instead?

I often suggest medications to people who could benefit from them. My friend Laura, for example, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis; Humira might help to alleviate her symptoms. Before she takes the drug, I’ll advise her to inform her doctor if she’s traveled to areas where certain fungal infections are common. Laura’s fungal knowledge is pretty limited. Can you be more specific? Athlete’s foot? Ring worm? Thrush? What about Candida auris, a versatile fungus that causes infections in the mouth, genitals, ears, wounds and, worst of all, the bloodstream? I’d feel terrible if Laura contracted that.

You also mention that serious and sometimes fatal infections have happened with Humira—Tuberculosis, and cancers like lymphoma. On the other hand, with Dupixent, a drug for eczema or atopic dermatitis, severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis can occur. What’s the difference? Do side effects and reactions happen as often as they occur? Or do occurrences occur more often than happenings happen? Or vice versa? In addition to the caveats we’ve already discussed, Otezla is associated with an increased risk of depression. Is an association more common than an occurrence or happening? What about a possibility?

I hope you’ll respond soon, Whoever; I’m itching to schedule with my internist, cardiologist, dermatologist, and neurologist. And please include a spreadsheet listing all medications advertised along with their benefits, risks, odds of triggering an emergency room visit, and number of associated deaths. I look forward to swimming, gazing at the stars, camping, ziplining, playing foosball, playing volleyball, roasting marshmallows, riding a motorcycle, running a restaurant, and everything else the folks in the commercials do—symptom and side effect free.


Sharon Goldberg

Sharon Goldberg is a Seattle writer who was an advertising copywriter in a former life. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, The Louisville Review, Cold Mountain Review, River Teeth, Under the Sun, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Manchester Review, three fiction anthologies, and elsewhere. Sharon won second place in the On the Premises 2012 Humor Contest and Fiction Attic Press’s 2013 Flash in the Attic Contest. She is an avid but cautious skier and enthusiastic world traveler.

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