Accutane and the warning labels

Now here’s an exciting question for you. When you receive your order through the mail from an online pharmacy, do you read all the consumer information that comes with it? It’s often on the label or in small print in a neatly folded format that hides most of the text unless you open it out. Why do we ask? Well, there’s a big debate going on about how much you should be told about the drugs before you take them. As it is, the system is mostly passive. The information is there, but it’s left to you to read through it all. How many of you have started reading some of this stuff only to find your eyes glazing over? We’ve all been there. There’s just so much of it and not exactly written in a way we can all take in easily. For example, when you see all those side effects, do you really think about what they are and how big a risk you’re taking? It’s the same on television where you have these ads for drugs. They have about ten seconds of message telling you how great the drugs are, and then thirty seconds listing all the side effects. Like we all take notes during that half minute.

Well, let’s get to the beef. There’s been yet another appeal case dealing with our favorite acne drug. This one’s about a girl who started treatment at 13 and then took the drug for two years. Far too long, but we can pass over that. She began to show blood in her stools. Later she had to have a part of her colon removed. This is a very rare side effect and, on the label, there’s a warning of possibly severe problems including inflammatory bowel disease. So, the $10 million question is whether mentioning a problem along with many others is adequate warning. The jury felt there was an information overload and hardly surprising it took a young girl so long to understand she was supposed to stop taking the drug if she had “stomach” problems.

One view is we get snowed under with information and give up. There’s actually research evidence testing how much we can remember after reading the consumer information supplied with the drugs we take. Most of those tested did very badly. When any drug like Accutane can be dangerous, the question is who is responsible for communicating the warnings. The manufacturers say they can’t do any more. They openly publish all the relevant information. What they publish is vetted by the FDA. If people don’t read it, that’s not the manufacturer’s problem. At some point, people have to take responsibility for their own safety. This would be particularly the case if they buy Accutane online and avoid talking with a doctor. In the good old days when we all had to get a prescription, the doctor could force us to listen. At present, the young lady’s case claiming $10 million goes on. She was very unlucky to be injured, but it was an avoidable injury if only she had read and understood the label.