Many years ago, Jim’s parents, Bill and Virginia, noticed a squirrel that hopped up on their patio, day after day. They started to feed the little fellow and looked forward to his daily visits.
One day the power went out. A couple of linemen from the electric cooperative where I worked drove out to fix the problem. The line superintendent called me on the intercom and said, “We found the problem. Their pet squirrel got into the transformer.”
Later, my grandson Colby told me that the squirrel had “an unfortunate accident.”
People have unfortunate accidents too. I recently read about a couple who heard the president talking about an anti-malarial drug, chloroquine showing promise as a treatment for COVID-19. They knew that they have chloroquine phosphate to treat their koi. They mixed up a small amount and took it. They both immediately became ill. The woman vomited and lived, her husband, unfortunately, died.
Why would they do such a thing? They had probably heard about off-label use of drugs for years. Once they heard about the studies, they probably felt fortunate enough to have some on hand. Other people are enrolling in studies and trying other drugs to stave off or shorten the effects of COVID-19.
France and Italy are using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 although its effectiveness is unknown. The unfortunate thing about experiential off-label use of a drug in a pandemic is that people who take the drug for chronic conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or sarcoidosis find it “out of stock.”
India, where many of our drugs are manufactured, is not exporting the raw ingredients for hydroxychloroquine. They are recommending their medical professionals take the drug to prevent developing COVID-19. In the USA, pharmacists are reporting shortages as off-label use of the drug for the pandemic soars. People who have used the drugs for years to maintain their health are now finding it unavailable. It is unreasonable for healthy people to take a drug for off-label use when it might endanger the health of people whose lives depend on an uninterrupted supply of medication. These drugs have side-effects and it may be a case where the cure can be worse than the disease.
Off-label use can be a slippery slope. I took issue with the anti-psychotic drugs physicians prescribed for Jim. First, Jim was on a new Alzheimer’s drug that caused him to start bleeding and to feel bad. He had only been off the drug for a few days when he got into a scuffle with another resident and was kicked out of the nursing home. Fast forward to “regenerations.” They prescribed an anti-psychotic drug that made foam flow out of his mouth. Jim couldn’t eat or drink and he paced constantly, and acted like an angry insane man. He dropped weight and looked like he was on the verge of dying.
My son and I told them to either take him off the drug, or we would take him to a different hospital. The doctor said that the drug couldn’t have those side-effects and that they “would not be responsible” for how he acted without the drug.
We insisted. Signed papers, etc. Within a few days of being off the drug, he returned to his normal self. Throughout Jim’s disease, we fought the anti-psychotic drugs since most of them did not work on him and made him worse. Drugs that “calmed” or more accurately “zoned out” other residents would agitate Jim.
My feelings are that when using a drug off-label, use with extreme caution and only under a physician’s close supervision. If you start having strange side effects, stop taking the drug! In addition, don’t try a long shot off-label use when others need them for chronic conditions.
Copyright © March 2020 by L.S. Fisher