Stock up on your favorite medicines now

The Madison County Record Jul. 11, 2009, 1:29am

If you ate something you shouldn't have, then took a drug to induce vomiting, would you sue the drug company for making you nauseated? Or would you be thankful for the relief the drug had provided, and the preclusion of more serious distress?

Your answer depends on whether or not you are a reasonable person. Reasonable people appreciate the benefits of modern medicine and take minor side effects in stride. Does your cough medicine make you drowsy? Maybe so, but it sure beats the torment of a nasty cough.

We pondered these trade-offs as we read of the fate of Accutane, the acne medicine recently pulled from the market by Roche pharmaceutical. The company blamed lawsuits for the drug's demise-- including several prominent ones filed here in Madison County.

Not one had offered a shred of actual scientific evidence backing the claim that Accutane causes bowel disease. But that didn't stop juries from sticking it to Roche based on some lawyers' self-serving theories. The company has shelled out millions to defend itself.

The truth is, harsh side effects often are acceptable for those managing severe pain and discomfort caused by disease. And if the tradeoff between benefits and adverse side effects tips too far, one always can choose not to take the medicine.

But what if there is no drug or treatment for your condition? Then, you don't have the opportunity to weigh the benefits against the physical and financial costs. You have no choice.

Here's the present frustrating scenario: There is a drug available that lessened the pain and discomfort of a chronic condition and you accepted its side effects as the price to pay for the relief. And you had used it for years with satisfactory results–only to see it removed from the market in response to predatory lawsuits?

That is an increasingly common occurrence–- played out these days far too often.

If you're one of the roughly 13 million people who have benefited from Accutane since its introduction in 1982, you're now out of luck. The FDA says the drug is a-ok, but the trial lawyers have ruled: you cannot have it anymore.

Which consumers are next in line for a dose of legislation by litigation? We don't want to find out.

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