I’m sorry ma’am, that medication is discontinued

I put a prescription repeat into the pharmacy and was informed that a pain killer I have been taking since 1994 has been discontinued.  Discontinued?!? A term usually trolled out in relation to your favourite nail polish or eye shadow or something! But medicines discontinued? This doesn’t bode well. So I asked Cindy Lou, my friendly neighbourhood pharmacy assistant “What’s the deal with the Digesic?” and in due course a message came back to me “It’s been discontinued and they’re not replacing it, sorry.  Too many side effects and it’s stuffing people’s hearts up.”  Oh, shit.

Digesic side effecrs

So I come home and (as you do) hit the internets.  Turns out Digesic and many other medications containing dextropropoxyphene have been discontinued… back in fucking 2004 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK and back in 2007 by the Federal Drug Administration in the US! So why the hell is Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration only just discontinuing the distribution of this medication now – in 2012!?!

Apparently they are still available in the US for named patients only (people addicted to the stupid things) but they carry a ‘black label’ warning that reads

“Should be used with extreme caution, if at all, in patients who have a history of substance/drug/alcohol abuse, depression with suicidal tendency, or who already take medications that cause drowsiness Eg: antidepressants (tick), muscle relaxants (tick), pain relievers (tick), sedatives (tick), tranquilizers (Hmmm… maybe I need me some ketamine just for weekends, you know!) Fatalities have occurred in such patients when misused.”

So yeah, apparently they are contraindicated with nearly everything else that I have been taking for years. now They can cause/worsen depression, have been implicated in usually high suicide rates, have a high risk of fatal overdose due to the drugs innate toxicity and and can cause cardiac membrane damage and subsequently arrhythmias, particularly with extended or long term use! Oh joy of joys. Nothing like discovering the pain killers I’ve been throwing back like Tic Tacs for the last 18 years or so may have potentially caused heart damage – yay!

Oh and bonus fun fact – The high toxicity and relatively easy availability made it a drug of choice for right to die societies. It’s listed in Dr. Philip Nitschke’s The Peaceful Pill Handbook and Dr. Pieter Admiraal’s Guide to a Human Self-Chosen Death.

W00t!  Euthanasia drugs – fun for the whole family!!!

I can’t believe I’ve been taking this shit for years and it should have been off our shelves years ago. Maybe it’s time to go have a heart check up :S

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