A few months ago, the New York Times ran an expose of the pharmeceutical industry which focussed on the marketing of mega drugs like Celebrex, Claritin and Xyrtec. One of the astonishing facts uncovered in this series was that the drug giants think nothing of lavishing $150-million or more in promoting some of their blockbuster drugs.
For a while (I haven’t seen any ads for it in some time), Pfizer, Xyrtec’s manufacturer ran ads that blithely purred: “No known major side effects.” I was always infuriated when I heard this. I felt like screaming at the screen: “Except for nearly killing my mother in law, you morons!”
Yes, my mother in law nearly died from taking Xyrtec. After her doctor prescribed it for her to relieve some of her allergy symptoms, the drug somehow attacked her liver and caused it to almost cease functioning. I remember at our 1998 wedding, she came into our wedding chamber where we were relaxing after the ceremony. Her eyes were yellow and she appeared to be staggering. After entering the bathroom, she promptly vomited. Within a few days, she collapsed on a New York City sidewalk and was hospitalized. Had not my sister in law’s brother, a liver specialist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital brilliantly diagnosed her condition after many other doctors and tests had failed to do so, there is a good chance that she would be dead. Even after she stopped taking the drug her liver function did not return to normal for an entire year. And in that year, she felt horrible pretty much around the clock. So much for the wonders of modern day pharmaceuticals!
Here’s what the Xyrtec.com site reveals about known side effects from this ‘wonder’ drug:
Zyrtec (cetirizine HCl 5-mg and 10-mg)
In Zyrtec studies, side effects were mild or moderate, including drowsiness, fatigue and dry mouth in adults, and drowsiness, headache, sore throat and stomach pain in children. Drowsiness occurred in between 11% and 14% in adults, depending on dose, compared to 6% taking placebo. In children, drowsiness occurred in between 2% and 4%, depending on dose, compared to 1% taking placebo.
Yup, you read it right: “side effects were mild or moderate…” Except for that one itty bitty case of the lady who nearly died from taking it.
A Pfizer-Xyrtec online .pdf file describes Xyrtec’s clinical trials, chemical composition and physiological function in greater detail. I reviewed this document for references to the possibility it might impair liver function and found a few references to the drug’s negative effects. Among the statements there are: “…greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out” and “in elderly patients it may be useful to monitor renal function.” In all their clinical trials they didn’t find a single patient whose liver was attacked by the drug? It makes you wonder how thorough the testing was. Sure, they passed all the FDA tests. But the research scientists at Pfizer and the FDA regulators missed something big in not anticipating this horrible impact.
If you’re over 65 and/or have impaired liver or kidney function and considering taking this drug, be VERY, VERY CAREFUL and make sure your doctor monitors your health.