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A drug by any other name might not be as effective

July 22, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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Smoking can kill you, we all know that. But stopping smoking can cause you to kill yourself. Tough decision.

The Food and Drug Administration this month ordered a "black box" warning be placed on two popular smoking cessation drugs known as Zyban and Chantix.

According to Top News, "The FDA decision about the warning labels on Chantix and Zyban comes after the agency's adverse event reporting system noted incidents of wacky behavior linked to the use of the drugs -- the changes in behavior included depressed mood, agitation, hostility and suicidal thoughts!"

Since it is my new policy to only get my news through reporters who are bold enough to use exclamation points and the word "wacky," I can also cite this story in relaying the findings that 112 suicides and 205 attempted suicides have been linked to these and similar drugs.

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One question: Isn't every freshly ex-smoker depressed, agitated, hostile and suicidal?

You never hear anyone say, "Hey, I had my last cigarette 36 hours ago and I'm on top of the world!" Even if quitting smoking doesn't make you suicidal, it usually makes everyone around you consider downing a few boxes of rat poison.

According to Business Week, "For many users, the problems started soon after they started taking the drugs! And ended when they stopped taking them!" (And yes, I added the exclamation points, but only because Business Week needs to lighten up.)

All right, so it does look bad for Zyban and Chantix, but that brings me to my main question: What lunatic is responsible for naming pharmaceutical products, and is he over the age of 6?

Is there no such thing as a reasonably named drug? There has to be a happy medium between Cyklokapron and Goody's Headache Powder.

Just run down the list: Cerebyx, Azulfidine, Sinequan, Cozaar, Vytorin, Xanax, Valtrex, Imitrex, Selzentry, Tykerb, Zinacef, Abarelix, Epzicom, Zetia. (After compiling this list, I can only pray that our insurance provider doesn't take a look at my Web search history, or they'll boot me out of the plan faster than you can say pre-existing condition.)

But really, Zinacef? It's as if the drugs are being named by frustrated Scrabble players.

Thank goodness these guys don't work over at Post Cereals, or Shredded Wheat would be going by the name of Zcerksvopyykr.

I refuse to take any drug with a Z or an X in it. Maybe it works, but it just doesn't sound like serious medicine to me. If my heart's on the fritz, the last thing I want to be taking is something called Xyxpookzer. I want to be taking something called Happy Ticker brand beta blockers.

A lot of the names look alike too, and you've seen doctors' handwriting. You take the prescription to the pharmacist just praying that they don't get the hemorrhoid treatment mixed up with the nasal spray.

I suppose there's a reason for all the gonzo names that I don't know about. Maybe they're linked to the Latin names of diseases. Maybe there actually is a drug inventor named Artimus P. Xanax.

But short of that, just a little more normalcy would be appreciated. Or not. The over-the-counter stuff takes it too far in the other direction, as evidenced by an ad I saw recently for an anti-gas pill. Name: Beano.

Perhaps I have been too hard on Pfizer.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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