A PILL BY ANY OTHER NAME

What’s the pill you are taking?

I spent many years writing seven editions of A Consumers’ Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients and A Consumers’ Dictionary of Food Additives so that you could understand the long chemical names on the label. At the beginning, many of you didn’t know anything listed with dextrose has sugar or that sodium was the name used for salt. You are more knowledgeable. There are hundreds of ingredients that, if you don’t know what they are, you can look them up in my dictionaries.

Now I discovered an even more confounding problem. The labels on medicines. In the past, when I was young are sharp-sighted and took no regular medications, I didn’t  pay sufficient attention to what was written. If I did have a question, I would just grab a Physician’s Desk Reference and compare the pill to a colored picture of it and find out what it was.

Now, I am older, wear glasses and can’t read the tiny print on the labels. There are millions of us past 40 years who can’t see the fine print and if we can, we may not know what it means.

To make matters worse, our pharmaceutical manufacturers have moved from the United States to far off places such as India and China. Aside from the lack of FDA supervision (that’s another story), the pills are usually orange or pink and round. You used to be able to tell that a small, white triangular pill was to Norvasc®, for example is amlodipine besylate produced by Pfizer and is a triangular white pill.  Daikichi Sankoyuo produces a generic amlodipine beyslate/olmesartan medoxomil,) under the name,Azor®) .It is a round yellow pill that looks like hundreds of other generic medications. And according to druggist with whom I spoke, distributors may hand out different colored generic amlodipine beyslate from more than 50 manufacturers. The colors vary from the original Norvasc® The appearance of a brand-name drug is trademarked. Supposedly, the active ingredients should be identical. Is it?

Pharmacists are required to fill your prescriptions with generics unless your physician writes you must have the name brand. The “no-name” pills may come from one company or another. One brand may have a lot of the active ingredient and the other may have almost none. I swallowed a generic medication made by a large company in India and immediately became ill. When I was switched to another generic of the same medication made by another company, I was fine. Of course, it may have just been a coincidence and it would be hard to prove the first generic was the cause of the upset unless many people who had the same reaction took the time to report it.

Generics are cheaper and that is why the government and the insurance companies are insisting we take them.  But how do we know where the pills were produced? Who was supervising to determine the amount of the medication and the inactive ingredient were in balance? Is anybody from the FDA inspecting the foreign sources of generics? There are reportedly three US agents assigned to Chinese pharmaceutical manufactures who now produce a large percentage of our medications. 

 Pharmacists are required to fill your prescriptions with generics unless your physician writes you must have the name brand. The “no-name” pills may come from one company or another. One brand may have a lot of the active ingredient and the other may have almost none. I swallowed a generic medication made by a large company in India and immediately became ill. 

Generics are cheaper and that is why the government and the insurance companies are insisting we take them.  But how do we know where the pills were produced? Who was supervising to determine the amount of the medication and the inactive ingredient were in balance? Is anybody from the FDA inspecting the foreign sources of generics? There are reportedly three US agents assigned to Chinese pharmaceutical manufactures who now produce a large percentage of our medications.

The Internet has made it possible to allow us to find the trade name of the generic medications we have been given. However, as pointed out, some generic drugs are manufactured by several manufacturers, and pill identification databases may not have images of all the generic versions. One of the best medication identifying sources is : WebMD’S http://www.rxlist.com/script/main/hp.asp. The FDA also provides information many generics but you have to list the trade name of the drug first: .http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194952.htm

THE NEW CAR SMELL MAY BE STINKY

The Internet and TV media are having fun about the “dangers” of the “New Car Smell” which subliminally lures the buyer even of a used car to be more prone to opt for the vehicle. The new car smell, which becomes especially pungent after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates along with many other chemicals volatilizing in the closed environment of the vehicle.

It is not so humorous when you consider the chemicals are inhaled and added to the many toxic volatile chemicals in your environment including your home, your office and your yard. In fact, I wrote a book about it, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals first published by Crown in 1992 and now available as an updated E-book.

Phthalates, derived from the organic chemical phthalic acid, include a large group of chemicals. World production of phthalates is estimated to be several million tons a year. . Phthalate compounds are used in just about every major product category including cosmetics, construction, automotive, household, apparel, toys packaging and medicinal material. You undoubtedly have phthalates in your body. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected phthalates in the urine of every Americans tested. Minute levels of phthalates used in toys, building materials, drug capsules, cosmetics and perfumes, have been statistically linked to sperm damage in men and genital changes, asthma and allergies in children. .Recent observations indicate some phthalates may be mutagenic, and cancer-causing

In 2004, the European Union banned phthalates in nailpolish. The FDA said in 2004 that phthalates are safe for humans in the amounts to which we are exposed. In 2008, The National Research Council (NRC) launched a project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the potential health effects of phthlates including accumulative risks

Cynics say there are so many reports of minute amount of toxins and there is really nothing to worry about. It’s the dose that counts. But I always say tell me how much of a carcinogen causes cancer and what is the effect of the chemicals around us, in us and on us?, Here’s a pertinent quote, I believe, from my A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals by Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, At the Annual Conference of the American Medical Writers Association in 2005. She said among the reasons scientists believe in environmental causes of cancer:

  • Fewer than 1 in 10 cases of breast cancer occur in women born with genetic defects. The others are believed to be environmental.
  • The cancer risk for adopted children reflects their adoptive parents, not their biologic parents.
  • Fewer than half of identical twins get the same cancer.
  • Rates of cancer are higher for people employed outside the home.
  • The cancer risk for immigrants changes to that of their new country.
  • The majority of cancer cases have no known risk factors.
  • Disease is more aggressive in women with higher residues of toxins in their blood.

Manufacturers say there is no reliable evidence that phthalates cause any health problems. Newly identified markers are providing a better indication of our exposure to phthalates. So next time you sniff at the potential of adverse effects of the “New Car Scent” don’t laugh. That new car smell, which becomes especially noticeable after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates volatilizing and many other chemicals floating around the enclosed environment of your car, especially if the temperature is high.

Seafood Surprise

I write about food additives and other problems related to edibles almost every day but I had a surprise experience yesterday. I was having lunch with some of my writer friends at a fine Greek restaurant. Since I’ve known for years that I can’t eat shrimp because I am allergic to it, I never eat it.  I also avoid salt at all costs for a variety of medical reasons.

The waiter was very nice and I asked him for a dish that had no salt. He said the only one in the restaurant was Kalamari (also spelled Calamari). That’s the name of squid.

After lunch, my belly began to swell. I thought was just indigestion but when I began to look pregnant—and I am way past the possibility—my son said I think you are having an allergic attack. I found it hard to believe but when I began to wheeze and cough, I took the appropriate allergy medicine my doctor had previously prescribed. I was very uncomfortable but I survived.

Food allergies are now the leading cause of sensitivity reactions treated in emergency departments in the US, according to the American Academy of Asthma and Allergy. The organization estimates there are 29,000 anaphylactic reactions–a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction to a foreign substance, especially a protein, in foods. Nearly 200 deaths due to food allergies are reported each year.

Seafood allergies are one of the most common causes of food allergy. Seafood can be a powerful allergen for those sensitive to certain sea life. Seafood allergies are life-long.– including scaly fish and  a type of shellfish:,“Mollusks, Abalone, oysters, mussels, and squid (Calamari). There are many types of squid, and they occupy a huge range of size from one inch to 80 feet long. In English-speaking countries, squid is called calamari because it is believed that the word “squid” sounds unappetizing. Another type of shellfish, “Crustaceans,” encompasses lobsters, crayfish, prawns, crabs and shrimp. I didn’t think that squid had a shell like lobsters or crabs.

The squid I ate did not have salt nor sauce. It was just on a bed of greens. Though looking innocent, it did cause quite a reaction in my body. By researching it, I learned Calamari is one of the most common causes of seafood allergic reactions so I thought I would tell you what I didn’t know, just in case you may be the allergic type. The dish was delicious, I admit,  and the service great at the restaurant. I had fun with my writer companions discussing the chaos in the publishing industry. The price I paid for eating the dish, however, was more than the cost on the bill. For further information about seafood allergies, check with: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation:1-800-7-ASTHMA . Email is: info@aafa.org .