Saturday, April 11, 2015

Disease State

It seems that whenever I flip on the TV, I'm confronted with people leading much fuller lives than I. I'm not talking about the doctors on "Grey's Anatomy" or the lawyers on "The Good Wife." Sure, they seem to have incredibly challenging careers, filled with interesting people and demanding situations. They have witty conversations, drive nice cars and have perfect wardrobes. But their personal lives seem to be a total wreck week after week, a condition they never seem to be able to resolve. No thanks, I'll pass.  

No, the ones I envy seem to have tipped the work-life balance hard to the side away from a cubicle. You only ever see them going fishing and playing golf. They go boating on beautiful lakes, and jog effortlessly on immaculately groomed paths. They have fabulous dinners on patios and in designer kitchens that I can only dream about. They even do things I thought only kids do, like play Frisbee on the beach, roast marshmallows over campfires and play quoits. Quoits! I can't tell you the last time I played quoits.

To be fair, they also have diabetes, over-active-bladder disease and skin conditions, but hey, into every life a little rain must fall.

I don't know about you, but the last time I had any medical issue, no matter how small, the last thing on my mind was marshmallows. What I'm hoping for is something that will enable me to get back to my normal routine. And daydreams to the contrary, that usually doesn't involve taking selfies in a classic car. It's more like I have a cough, and all I want is something that will enable me to get some sleep, or find a seat on the train where those around me don't treat me like I'm Typhoid Mary.  

That's what I want from a medication. But I guess I've set my sights too low. Because if you watch almost any pharmaceutical commercial, it seems that drugs can do so much more than merely control a chronic condition. Forget being able to just enjoy spicy foods or take a walk in the sun. No matter how serious your situation, taking them can not only bring your PH level into balance, it can enable you to get back to water skiing, right after you've mountain biked to the beach.

I mean, I never ask about those kinds of side effects. All I want to know is if it will make me sleepy or hungry. But whether it's Xarelto for irregular heartbeat or Nexium for persistent heartburn or Humira to control psoriasis, the commercials seem to treat the actual medicinal action almost as an afterthought. To be sure, the spots talk about the efficacy of the drug, and recite a list of possible secondary responses which aren't so nice. But the associated visuals hardly focus on how taking the medication enables you to feel good enough to go grocery shopping or attend the weekly staff meeting. Rather, going on that particular therapeutic regime actually seems to turn your life from one of suffering to one where every day is a vacation.

Take a commercial for a drug called Farxiga. According to the spot, I shouldn't think of it as a diabetes medication that functions as a "sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor that blocks the reabsorption of glucose by the kidney, increases glucose excretion, and lowers blood glucose levels," as it explains on its web site. Rather, taking it will encourage me to walk on the beach with friends, play guitar by a campfire or play fetch with my dog in the water. To be fair, they do show it in a work setting, though the last time I saw construction workers dancing next to a dump truck was, well, never. Maybe I just never saw a diabetic construction worker. So there.  

Make no mistake, I don't wish these conditions on anyone. But for all the lip service paid to not sitting inside on a sunny day, it never occurred to me that having a real medical problem would be the answer to a fuller life. I mean, I'm sorry for guys who have "that thing that can't be named or this will get caught in your spam filter," but how cool would it be for my wife and I to have a vacation home with a pair of bathtubs in the yard overlooking the mountains?


Marc Wollin of Bedford hates taking any drugs. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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