Ask your doctor if Relievo is right for you

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Column by Jim Flynn

If you’ve been to a doctor’s office lately you probably had an opportunity to read a magazine or two - or three. Whether the magazine was focused on news, sports, gardening, mechanics, cooking, fashion, or humor, it included at least one advertisement suggesting a medication you might want to discuss with your doctor.

It’s important to answer honestly the questions which medication advertisements suggest. For example “Do you have too much fat in your blood?” or “Do you want to get a better grip on life?”

Magazines and television have opened a wide world of treatments for many conditions with which we already suffer. However some ads call our attention to ailments even hypochondriacs have never heard of.

Unless turning magazine pages causes you to doze off (You might want to ask the doctor about that.), you may have noticed a common pattern in health ads. Often there’s a smiling person who suggests “You don’t have to suffer like I did with ingrown toenails.” Another is “Gee, Sis, you ought to discuss these symptoms with your doctor.” The ads don’t say whether Sis tweeted back “Mind your own business!”

The happy-face blurbs are usually short. Most end by suggesting “Please read patient information on the next page.” The headline on the flip side says: “Important safety information about Relievo (a fictitious remedy for everything).”

The details of the reverse page may cause you to ask “Why didn’t I take chemistry in high school, or at least volunteer for a first aid course?” Those who took chemistry may regret that they sat near the windows and dozed off in class.

Health ads ask similar questions: What is Relievo? What should I tell the doctor before getting Relievo? What are the possible side effects of Relievo? A list of familiar symptoms follows: flushing, nausea, headache, chills, fatigue, fever, hair loss, etc. “Call your doctor right away if you have dizziness, chest pain, breathing problems, irregular heartbeat, or amnesia.”

Other highlighted information includes “This product is FDA approved” and “Consult the package insert for full prescribing information.” Good grief, there’s more?

Recently we received a prescription for Relievo. Inside was enough paper to create a roll of toilet tissue. In tiny type it revealed “There is no assurance that Relievo is safe, effective, or appropriate. Ask your doctor.” “Hello, Doctor? Are you sure about this stuff?”

Then there are more paragraphs about precautions, side effects, interactions, overdoses, underdoses. “Complaints should be reported to the FDA.” After all, they approved Relievo.

An uncomforting summary of the thousand words about Relievo is “Don’t blame us if you neglected to ask your doctor before something went wrong.” We would suggest one additional caveat: “This paper is not recommended as a substitute for body tissue products.”