My Turn: The age of pharmababble

For the Monitor
Last modified: Sunday, February 07, 2016
Here’s a little exercise even more challenging than Sudoku. Without help from Google, guess what each of the following drugs is for: Trulicity, Namzaric, Osphena, Belsomra, Invocana, Abreva, Prevagen, Vanda, Otezla, Brilinta, Tectidera, Neulasta, Humira, Myrbetriq, Jublia, Orencia, Breo Ellipo, Xeljanz, Novartis, Movantik.

If Mad Men was set in the last 10 to 15 years, these drug names might be the sort of crap Don Draper and his Mad Ave. colleagues would be cranking out.

Where do today’s pharma gangs dig up these names? I’m no linguist, but I might think Osphena was some unfortunate Greek queen or a variation of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, who drowned herself. For all I know, Belsomra could be a town in the Balkans.

Jublia, Invocana and Abreva could be places in Italy or Spain, and gee, haven’t we heard of Humira, that ancient Roman city known for its steamy Roman baths?

Trulicity? Sounds kind of like Travelocity, that site that will get you the best travel deals. Prevagen could be a bastardization of some French word. But on second thought, “vagen” tells you it might be targeted at women, like estrogen, which was foisted on all us women of a certain age to ward off hot flashes. We greedily gobbled that stuff until new research came to light saying, “Gee, now we see estrogen can give a woman blood clots that might just bust away and make a beeline for a lung or your heart, and – whoops! – kill you. Not to mention breast cancer.”

And the rest? Your guess is as good as mine.

Otezla: Aztec? Mayan? Drug companies are everywhere these days.

Brilinta: Is that a pot scrubber?

And one, Myrbetriq (talk about sending your spell-checker into a frenzy) had me really stumped. The drug company’s ad opens with a photo of a 50-ish woman with long straight blond hair, sitting on a wicker garden bench and gazing off into the distance, and all against a bank of lovely green foliage. The opening pitch says: “Penelope is taking charge of her overactive bladder symptoms. Are you?” (Am I? What business is it of yours?) Then again, I am older than Penelope and must admit I want to know where my next toilet is located.

Anyway, Myrbetriq can do a mess of unpleasant things to you: the inability to empty your bladder, diarrhea, constipation, memory issues.

I think I’d rather go with a supply of Depends.

And the same honey-voiced actors who list the benefits also speedily rattle off all of the side effects and warnings: “Raging cancers, zits and even death have happened.” Ah, that soothing passive voice.

There are some drug ads that mention no side effects of any kind. Those include cold-sore cures and ones that claim to delay brainfry. Hey! I just remembered! Prevagen is one of those brainfry-delaying drugs:

Fillet of a fenny snake

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,

Wool of bat, and tongue of dog.

Order online; shipping’s free!

Next time you see your doctor and give him the forms “Jenny at the front desk” had you fill out – the ones where you once again disclose your entire medical history and all the meds you are taking – ask him, “Is Movantik right for me? Because I’ve got killer constipation.”

He will probably fiddle around on his computer and say: “It might be right for you, since I see here that it helps with the constipation. Sure, I can write a scrip for that, and while I’m at it, how is your stash of oxycodone? Still okay on that? Great! Be sure to make a follow-up appointment with Jenny. See you in three months.”

(Jane Wingate lives in Strafford County. Her website is janewingate.com.)