The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet later this month to discuss making popular prescription drugs, like statins and some diabetes drugs, available over the counter. According to a CBS News report, “The new industry-backed proposal is driven in part by a wave of computer technology, including touch-screen kiosks found in pharmacies, designed to help patients self-diagnose common diseases. Drugmakers could use electronic questionnaires, diagnostic devices like blood pressure monitors and other computer-assisted technology to guide patients.”
Yowzers! While I’m certainly in favor of speeding up FDA approval process when it comes to life-saving drugs or devices like the artificial pancreas, I don’t know how I feel about the idea of over the counter drugs that treat complicated conditions. I see the benefits of course – more people will have access to the drugs and it will be cheaper to get them. But there are such big drawbacks. Take me, for example. Like others with a tendency towards hypochondria, my medical expertise comes from years of panic-induced disease-related Google searches, not from medical school. Does the world really want the likes of me self-treating? Me? Self-treating on the basis of a blood pressure monitor in Walgreen’s? First of all, I don’t believe the monitor works because I swear I just saw eight-year-old twin boys jabbing paperclips under the buttons, but I’ll try it anyway. Second of all, I get anxious before any kind of medical test. Given my anxiety, my blood pressure might rise. Let’s see… OMG… I have high blood pressure!
What should I do? Is high blood pressure the same thing as hypertension? I’ll ask the woman next to me who is shopping for a toothbrush. She looks pretty smart, and I like her shoes. Or maybe I’ll just grab some blood pressure medicine. Beta blockers, right? Or am I getting confused with beta cells? Crap. I just remembered high blood pressure increases risk of heart failure and stroke, so I should probably grab a statin, too, in case I feel some chest pains later. Except I recall something about statins causing diabetes in some people. I guess I don’t have to worry about that… but what if they make my insulin resistance worse? I should also buy metformin. If I notice my blood sugar numbers creeping up, I’ll just start taking it.
When I get home I can take out all of my new medications and read the package inserts carefully. I’m quite prone to the power of suggestion, so I’m likely to feel side effects from the medications just from reading about them. After glancing at the warnings about my statin and metformin I have muscle pain, a rash, and nausea. I’m so itchy! I rush back to Walgreen’s to buy a supply of pills and creams to quell the side effects of my new drug regimen. Wow, this self-treating business can get expensive. But at least I’m decreasing doctor visits, which according to CBS News, the FDA believes could be beneficial. At least I’m not giving away my money to those doctors! Who needs them anyway when we have electronic questionnaires and computer-assisted technology to guide patients? And don’t forget, we have Google.