Pharmaceuticals: UPsides/DOWNsides

The Avodart you see advertised on TV claims to help men suffering from frequent urination by shrinking their enlarged prostates. It also threatens the women in their lives with giving birth to babies having severely deformed sex organs. The women don’t have to actually take the pill: they simply have to handle it to be in danger.

Propecia will grow hair on men’s balding heads but carries similar birth defects risks for women who may handle these pills. Propecia can also destroy male libido or, worse, leave the sprit willing and the flesh weak through drug-related impotence.

On that score, erectile dysfunction-- which presidential wannabe Senator Bob Dole parlayed into a household word—is treated with Viagra or Cialis. These drugs not only threaten to kill men with cardiovascular issues, they also promise some takers with priapism-- painful and dangerous erections lasting six hours or more.

Thousands of “miracle” drugs on which we depend have created a lexicon of contraindications and dangerous side effects we ought to take more seriously. Those intimidating (and boring looking) inserts stapled to each prescription package go unread in too many cases, but they could save lives. Pharmacists stand ready to answer questions but too many patients ignore or are unaware of drug warnings.

Physicians, on the other hand, are overly willing to dispense drugs without taking the time to discuss risks and side effects with patients. Telephoning in a prescription or jotting one down on a prescription pad are easier options, and both take less time than dialogue or patient education. As a consequence we have an overmedicated society and one that may be unknowingly in danger.

On another front, Barbara K. Hecht, PhD and Frederick Hecht, MD, Medical Editors for are concerned about drug marketing trends. They wrote about Zelnorm, an irritable bowel syndrome remedy for women:

"We have been bothered by some of the current Zelnorm advertising, For example, ads on television present a group of very attractive women, all smiling and showing off their trim, tanned, well-toned midsections. One gets the immediate impression that Zelnorm has something to do with being young, pretty and in great shape. It would not be very glamorous to state on prime-time TV that Zelnorm is actually intended to 'increase the movement of stools (fecal matter) through the bowels' but that is, in fact, what this drug is intended to do."

In other words, “It’s a laxative, and you’ll still be fat after you take it.”

It’s time we evaluated whether having a full head of hair or being able to engage in sex marathons in our golden years are worth the risks. The downsides of Avodart and Propecia for women and their progeny seem at least as serious as second hand smoke, yet they remain unknown. Where medications are concerned, the question should be, “What’s the tradeoff?”

Producer Novartis took Zelnorm off the market in March 2007. Seems it not only moved “fecal matter” but also caused heart attacks and strokes. Makes you wonder how many other prescriptions America could live (better) without?



22 year-old Marine Jared Hubbard was killed in Iraq in 2004. His brother Nathan, an Army officer, died there this week when the Black Hawk he was in crashed ending the lives of Hubbard and 13 more soldiers. He was 21.

A third brother, Jason, 33, went to Iraq in 2005. His mother told the Fresno Bee at that time that the elder brother wanted to protect Nathan from Jared’s fate. Now the Hubbard’s third son is on his way home to Clovis, California to bury his second sibling.

Clovis Police spokeswoman Janet Stoll-Lee said the family is taking this “very, very hard.” The parents, Jeff Hubbard, a retired 30-year police force veteran, and his wife, Peggy have been in seclusion.

Yet, as a mother, it is Peg I would most like to hear from. America needs to know-- if only she would tell us-- what she is feeling in the depths of her broken heart.

Losing a child changes a parent forever. It is impossible to fathom what losing two children in the space of three years would do; but sacrificing one’s children for a useless, wasteful, ridiculous war that even generals now admit cannot be won must inflict incalculable damage.

The Hubbard sons’ deaths make us realize that we haven’t heard from enough mothers on the war in Iraq. I’d like more women to come forward—mothers, wives and lovers of the men who have been sacrificed for nothing in the so-called “war on terror” where imaginary “weapons of mass destruction” killed our best and brightest, sent to Iraq by a Commander-in-Chief too cowardly to go a war himself when it was his turn.

I want to hear the rage of women who have lost the men they love for no good reason. I want their wails and sobs to fill America’s streets, its airwaves, every chapel, cathedral, temple and mosque. I’d like campuses, state houses, town halls and chambers of Congress to be overrun with their outrage and despair.

I long for their sobs and their anger to drown out the cowardly silence of political whores who have allowed this war to go on and on uselessly, trading the blood of our sons and lovers for personal gain and wider re-election chances.

I want Peg Hubbard to tell us how it feels to send a third son back to war after lowering two others into the ground. I’d like to hear what thoughts fill her sleepless nights and hopeless days. I want her and women like her to break their silence and unfurl their devastation tightly-wrapped in tri-folded flags removed from caskets and presented to them at gravesides.

It’s hard to love a country that doesn’t love you back. It’s folly to respect a government that has no respect for your children

If men don’t have the courage to say so, maybe the women who gave birth to the men will speak out, so the Hubbard brothers’ deaths will, finally, have meaning.

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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Hillsboro Beach, FL/ Cranston, RI, United States

"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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