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As soon as you see any group of shiny happy people running through emerald pastures, standing triumphantly on mountaintops or staring wistfully at a daisy, you can be fairly certain a prescription drug pitch is only moments away. "Ask your doctor about ..." fill in the blank.
Then the joke fodder follows. "Side effects may include" -- Oh, let's see. Headaches. Muscle pain. The comedian's gold nugget, leakage.
"Frontline's" "Dangerous Prescription," airing tonight at 9 on KCTS/9, shows that those supposedly laughable warnings are no joke.
But the changing standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Drug Safety might be.
Compared to other current events tackled on "Frontline," "Dangerous Prescription" may not seem as attractive as a program dissecting the war on terrorism or political power brokers, but the odds of tonight's subject directly impacting a typical viewer are much higher. .
"Americans need to recognize that every time they put a pill in their mouth, especially a new pill they've never taken before, it's an experiment," said Dr. Raymond Woosley, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine and one of the experts on "Dangerous Prescription."
Here's one of those experiments you might even be considering asking your doctor about this season: Relenza. That's the inhalable anti-flu drug hawked by Wayne Knight, "Seinfeld's" Newman. "Frontline" spoke to Michael Elashoff, a former FDA drug evaluator who recommended against Relenza's approval. Not only did it fail to work, Elashoff said, it also appeared to cause bronchospasm, or constricted breathing.
But his bosses overruled him, and Relenza is now on the market, with the warning that the product could cause death and injury from bronchospasm