Drugs: Side Effects of Inconsideration

For all the heat our pharmaceutical industry takes we cannot deny that it saves thousands of lives each day. That is why one can only scratch one’s head in wonder at the way the industry haphazardly labels its drugs with virtually no regard for the people who use them. You practically have to have a degree in cryptography to figure out which pill does what once these drugs are out of their respective containers. Imminent patent expirations on brand name drugs will only exacerbate the problem as more cosmetically unstandardized generics will flood the market.

There is a complete lack of coherency for the patient, and what is worse, pharmacies contract with several different manufacturers of these drugs, compounding the confusion. Each manufacturer produces the same medicine chemically, but in different sizes, shapes, colors and codes.

Here is an example: Below there are three different versions of the same drug; Finestaride /5 mg, that were received by a patient within a three month period from his local pharmacy.

image of pill
image of pill

Finestaride 5mg (topside)

Finestaride 5mg (flipside)

The first photo (on the left) shows one side of a group of Finestaride 5 mg tablets. The second photo (on the right) shows the same 3 pills turned over. In this case you might be able to decipher that the pill on the right that says F5 is likely to be the pill you would associate with Finestaride…that is if you can even read it. The other pills show no intelligible indication what they might be. Once these drugs are out of the box and put into a sorter, you are basically on your own in terms of interpreting what they are!

If, for instance, you are taking the white pill (M/151) for a couple of years, and then suddenly are provided the pill on the right (R/172) and then the next month (Blank/F5) the chances of mistaking one of these pills for another totally different drug are significant!

There are many other drugs besides Finestaride that are marketed with the same casual disregard for the patient’s ability to make sense of what they are…and therefore, by simple deduction, for our health in general. It is a powder keg of mistakes ready to blow as pharmaceutical companies and their dispensaries scramble to increase their profit margins.

Below are photos of Trileptal 150 mg. Again, good luck figuring out what this medication is. Three different pills…three different manufacturers, three different colors, two different codes and shapes!

image of pill
image of pill
Trilepta 150 mg (topside)
Trileptal 150 mg (flipside)

Below is the drug Zanaflex provided by two different manufacturers:

image of pill
image of pill
Zanaflex 4m:( topside)
Zanaflex 4mg (flipside)

You get the idea! But here is a problem with a simple regulatory solution. Why not make all drugs of the same type and strength look the same? One side of the pill could have a coherent label indicating what it is. The other side of the pill could have a manufacturer’s code. It just makes common sense. Drug companies and pharmacies could continue to bargain for the best deals, while patients could be sure what drug they are taking.

Again, one must wonder: Are these corporations keeping us alive with their brilliant technology just to kill us with abject inconsideration and slipshod ethics on the retail end of things? Let’s rally to make this industry create consistent and intelligible manufacturing and distributing codes. Transplant patients are particularly at risk because of the multitude of drugs we are often required to take. Let’s bring this problem out into the general conversation about health. There is a simple solution and there is no excuse not to enact it.

~Marc Twang


San Francisco East Bay Transplant Support Group and Friends

Marc Winokur ( Retired Public School Teacher / Oakland, Ca.) Paul Revelli (Professional Musician, S.F. Ca.

Dr. Danielle Rosenman (MD, Berkeley, Ca.)

Mary Revelli (S. F., Ca.)

Dr. John Mouratoff ( East Bay Nephrology, Oakland, Ca.)

Debbie Sarnoff (Public School Teacher, Oakland, Ca.)

Dr. James E. Eichel (Family Practice, Berkeley, Ca.)

Gayle Jacobson ( RN, Oakland, Ca)

Brandon H. Doan (Pharmacist in Charge, CVS Care Plus, Berkeley, Ca.)

Paula Kerrigan (Admin Medical Records, Fairfax Ca.)

William B. Young, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., F.I.C.P.P.

Alan Kerr (Conviviator, Berkeley, Ca.)

Joyce Steinlauf (Jewelry Appraiser / Berekely, Ca.)

Michael Noel (School Psychologist, Hayward, Ca.)

Michele Kaitner (Choreographer / El Cerrito, Ca.)

Robert Compton (Social Worker, Berkeley, Ca.)

Sasha Gottfried (Communications Coordinator, Oakland, Ca.)

Zarik Ali (Real Estate, Bay Area, Ca.)

Theodore Oltman (Retired Carpenter, Berkeley, Ca)

Laramie Crocker (Programmer, Berkeley, Ca.)

Carole Zissman (MSW, Medford, NJ)

Wendy Olson, Teacher, Berkeley, Ca.)

Janet Schoenhaus ( Retired School Bus Driver / Maui, Hawaii)

Garth Hudson, Photographer, Berkeley, Ca.)

William Schwartz (Architect / Mill Valley, Ca.)

William Behrman, (Sales Manager, Long Island, NY)

Harry Yaglijian (Merchant / Oakland Ca.)

Charles Cooper (Med Lab Clinician Scientist, Berkeley, Ca.)

Ms Mary Garren, Manager Scientific Glassblowing Shop, Richmond, Ca.

Roger Brown ((Industrial Display, Berkeley, Ca.)

Caryn Gottfried (MFC, Moraga, Ca.)

Neil Levy (Law Professor, Univ. California, Berkeley)

Cindy Elder (Dialysis Patient, Knoxville, Tennessee)

Harry Gans (Designer (Berkeley, Ca.)

Ken Dalwin (Odd Job Man / Oakland, Ca.)

Alyss Doressse (Retired Literary Agent, Berkeley, Ca.)

James Fairly (Retired Sailor / Berkeley, Ca.)

Jean Carmichael (Retired HS Teacher, Berkeley, Ca.)

Jodie Appell (Writer, Richmond, Ca.)

Maren Kanter (Statistician, Berkeley, Ca.)

Danette Voegli (Teacher / Concord, Ca.)

Patricia Roberto (Editor, Berkeley, Ca.)

Connie Young (Nurse, Albany, Ca.)

Betysy Barony (Home Health Professional, Fort Bragg, Ca.)

Fred Hayden (Geologist, Albany, Ca.)

Sasha Futran (Retired Journalist, Berkeley, Ca.)

Frances Kalfus (L.Ac., O.M.D., Berkeley, Ca.)

Phyllis Jordan (Retired Teacher, Berkeley, Ca.)

Miriam Falk (Computer Programmer, Freehold, N.J.)

Julia Ross (Attorney, Berkeley Ca.)

Joanna Smith, (Homemaker, Brooklyn, N.Y)

Betty Winkler (Silkscreen Printer, Social Worker, N.Y.C.)

Sue Levy, ( Bookstore Manager, Piedmont, Ca.)

Helaine Barbanell Schipper (DDS, S.F., Ca)

Ed Schmookler, ( PhD., Licensed Psychologist, Albany, Ca . )

Joel M Schipper, (Solution Architect, S.F. Ca.)

Clare Burrows, (Web Developer, Vacaville, California)

Sheila Catanyag (Phlebologist, Alta Bates Hospital, Berkeley, Ca.)

Dan Dickinson, (Computer Data Management, Berkeley, Ca.)

Tom Stone (Union of Concerned Scientists, Highland Park, Ill.)

Rabbi David Cooper (Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont, Ca.)

Bill Neumann (Musician, Hawaii)

Carolyn Sweeney (Travel Agent, Berkeley, Ca.)

Rantu Kar (Musician, Richmond, Ca.)

Suzanne Fox (Pre-Natal Clinic Coordinator, El Sobrante, Ca.)

Diana Roegel (Herbalist, Berkeley, Ca.)

Boris Vainer, (Translator & Interpreter, DOD)

Bill Stanton (Retired Drug Researcher, Kensington, Ca.)


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