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Oh, what a relief it is

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 7/30/20

Like so many of you during this pandemic I have been watching a lot of television. It seems that half the commercials are from pharmaceutical companies pitching the viewer ointments, pills and …

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Oh, what a relief it is

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Like so many of you during this pandemic I have been watching a lot of television. It seems that half the commercials are from pharmaceutical companies pitching the viewer ointments, pills and injections to cure a wide variety of ailments.

Years ago, commercials for medicines and pain relievers were extremely limited. A popular one had the cartoon figure of Speedy Alka-Seltzer. Speedy was a red-headed guy who had one Alka-Seltzer tablet as a body and another that he wore on his head like a straw hat.

He would watch 2 tablets of Alka-Seltzer drop into a glass of water and fizz away while he sang the jingle “Plop. Plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is”. The reality was that drinking the fizz resulted in a loud extensive burp that cured very little except for a mild case of indigestion. But the commercial's jingle was so ingrained in your brain that I suspect many of you in the baby boomer generation have it rattling around your cranium right now.

Another commercial back then was for Pepto-Bismol. It showed a cartoon drawing of a side view of a guy with some liquid sliding down his mouth to his stomach. The tagline said, “Quick as a wink, you're in the pink”. They had to mention that the liquid was pink because this was in the era when all televisions were black and white. Color television came years later in a period known by scientists as the Technozoic age.

So, thanks to Speedy and Pepto, Americans had their bloated, gas symptoms under control. Expulsions of gas led to a happy, contented feeling not shared by those in your immediate area.

As far as prescription medicine, it was all up to your doctor. Only your physician was clued into what prescription drug would be best for you. If Speedy, Pepto or the occasional aspirin did not cure your ailment, you went to the doctor. There the doctor would scribble a prescription on a pad in handwriting that resembled ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Then the pharmacist would somehow decipher these scribbles and give you a vial of Flammatoid or Riboflexin to make you feel better.

We are living in a whole different pharmaceutical world today. Watch any television show and between segments of America's Top Carnival Food or Celebrity Parcheesi you will be inundated with one drug commercial after another. Days of the cartoon spokesman are gone. Instead actors start the commercials by saying things like “Hello. When my colon fell out, I knew I was in trouble. Luckily my doctor knew about a drug named Cloradropin”.

Today's medicines have easy to remember names like Enbrel, Humira, Manchego, Abilify and Nexium. Those names were applied after extensive market research and focus groups showed that nobody could pronounce or recall the actual scientific names. Just for the record, they are etanercept, adalimumab, aripiprazole and esomeprazole. You might have noticed that I only listed four scientific names because, just to keep you on your toes, I slipped in Manchego, which is a type of cheese from Spain.

Prescription drugs come packaged in a variety of ways. One method is to seal each individual pill on a sheet known as a blister pack. The term blister pack is derived from the observation of the Society of Historical Archeology that opening the plastic bubble surrounding each pill leads to cuts, bruises and blisters of the fingers. The Society is concerned with scholarly research, the preservation of historical sites and in this case, figuring out the easiest way to open a blister pack.

The most popular way to package drugs is the use of a vial. The vial is sealed with a plastic cap. Originally the cap just popped open to get to the pills. That transitioned into the twist off cap that required just a little bit of torque to unscrew the lid. That led to today's vial cover, the “Child-proof” Cap. The designation child-proof is a misnomer since, in most cases, it is also Adult-Proof.

To open the cap, one presses down on the lid while simultaneously twisting it until you hear a series of clicks. Simultaneously with the twisting and clicks you will hear a series of profanities that would make a teamster blush as you attempt to open the vial to take your daily dose of Duocloptan.

Once taken orally, the medicine travels from the mouth to the throat and then into your system. How the medicine knows which ailment to cure is still a mystery. Traveling down your gullet like a bather in a water park tube, the pill, capsule or liquid lands in your stomach. There it settles among food fragments like last night's veal parmigiana, that broccoli rabe you forced down despite its acidic taste, the blueberry pop tart you wolfed down for breakfast and assorted items such as partially chewed Altoids and, of course, corn. Corn, in most forms whether it be from a cob or canned never seems to break down from digestion. The only corn that seems to be digestible is popped.

Dr. Peter Bushwacker from the Institute of Movie Treats developed a popular theory that popped corn breaks down because of its interaction with the chemical topping that theaters call butter even though nothing in that product has anything to do with butter. In fact, it is comprised of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, beta carotene, polydimethylsiloxane and buttery flavoring. It is the polydimethylsiloxane that makes it taste so good!

After floating in your stomach, the medicine seeps into your bloodstream trying to find exactly from where the pain is coming. It swims around the various arteries, veins and capillaries until it finds the correct area to land. For example, you took some aspirin because your toe is throbbing with pain. The aspirin passes by your thigh, knee, shin and ankle until your foot says, “Hey, it's about time you got here. It's the big toe”.

Once at the aching digit, the aspirin starts alleviating the pain with a method that only lasts about 8 hours. After that, you must take more aspirins and the whole process repeats. Eventually you realize you have a small splinter in your toe, pull it out and the pain subsides.

Modern pharmaceutical drugs have come a long way since Speedy Alka-Seltzer and Pepto Bismol dominated the scene. Today, all you have to do is let your doctor prescribe a medicine, go to the pharmacy and, after taking out a second mortgage to pay for them, buy the drugs for what ails you.

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.

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