Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Scandal of Paxil

I've taken a certain prescription drug everyday for the past 12 years, or at least, I've attempted to. Back in the day when I was first prescribed this drug, it cost $100 a month. I have spent more time without insurance than with, so this has been a consistent cost each month since 1997...that's about $13,000, which is astounding to me given that I can't function without it. Some medical professionals even say I am addicted to it, given the length of time I have been on it and my repeated failure in staying off of it.

This drug is an antidepressant; it goes by the brand name Paxil or Seroxat, or the generic name paroxetine. I take 40mg a day. Paxil is arguably the most controversial anti-depressant of our times, with scandals over supression of unfavorable clinical findings, consumer fraud and suicidal tendencies reported by teens and young adults on the drug (one clinical finding suggested teens were 6 times more likely to become suicidal after taking paroxetine). Paxil's biggest crime? Despite initial claims by GlaxoSmithKline that this drug was non-habit forming, it has the single worst withdrawal symptoms of any antidepressant on the market (as reported in 2001 by the BBC on behalf of the World Health Organization. This drug does BAD things to people who attempt to discontinue using it, even after just a couple of weeks of use. Withdrawal symptoms range from the minor (nausea, fatigue) to "shocks" and uncontrollable crying. (For those of you who have no idea what "shocks" are, it's best defined as a sensation of electricity in the body. It's truly awful.) I have experienced these withdrawal symptoms and more, as Paxil is expensive and I wasn't always able to stay on it continuously. There have been times when I simply ran out of the drug a week before I got paid, so there was nothing for it but to withdraw and wait. As a matter of fact, I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms as we speak because Walgreens has lost their ever loving minds.

I used to get all of my prescriptions filled at Walgreens, which I have discovered is a bit like buying a Timex watch at Prada prices. I say this, because WalMart (groan) has hundreds of generic drugs for only $4 per 30 day supply. Paroxetine is one of them. Assuming that Walgreens knew this, and would adjust their previously sky-high pricing accordingly, I tried to take a shortcut last night in getting my already overdue prescription filled.

I had been out for 3 days, and I was beginning to get some major withdrawal symptoms. Time to get it done.

WalMart has no drive through pharmacy; they are plagued with long lines and even longer wait times. WalMart, in general, makes me nuts. I get easily overstimulated and overwhelmed by large crowds and busy visual stimuli, so WalMart is the last thing I want to face when I've got the shocks and anxiety of Paxil withdrawal. Listening to NPR in the quiet, safe seclusion of my car, I pulled into the drive thru pharmacy at Walgreen's at 5:55pm last night. After waiting for 20 minutes, it was finally my turn. I forked over my prescription and driver's license and asked to get a price on the prescription from the clerk in navy scrubs behind the bullet proof glass.

"You have to come in to request a price. All I can do is take your prescription at the drive thru window." I turned Marketplace all the way down and stared at her, dubious. Steady.

"That's ridiculous. I've been waiting in this line for 20 minutes." I already have a bad temper, and when I'm tweaking with withdrawal, it's incredibly difficult for me to not rip people's arms out of their sockets for such minor indiscretions as, say, giving me root beer instead of Diet Coke at McDonald's.

"That's our policy. I'm sorry."

"OUR policy, or your policy? That's ludicrous. I'm supposed to get the same service here as your...:::restrain from using profanity:::...COUNTER inside. Fine. Run it. I'll pick it up at 7."

Two hours later, I return to pick up the prescription. Again, I'm safely restrained in my car. The bullet proof glass is essential to my staying out of jail, as this clerk, this glorified drug dealer, tells me that'll be $75, please.

Nuclear implosion ensues. As calmly as possible, I express my hot displeasure at such a rip off and my suspicion that Walgreens has been taken over by GSK's army of delusional dancing monkeys.

I'll be at WalMart as soon as I get off of work.


  1. Someone at Walgreens needs to be set on fire.

  2. It's astonishing to me that they charge $75 for a $4 Rx and don't bat an eye. It truly is "buyer beware". HUNDREDS of generic drugs are available for $4 at WalMart, if only people stop and check.

  3. You know, you make me feel extremely fortunate...not only have I never experienced withdrawal (yet) when discontinuing Paxil, I have only had to miss it once before (about a week). I know there are all kinds of bad things about it, but I have been on well, paroxetine now, since 1998. I never plan to get off. I have tried other medications and none have worked to fix what I need fixed like Paxil. The fact that you can't take it when you get pregnant almost makes me never want to get pregnant. Also, I am lucky enough to have decent insurance so I only have to pay $10 for a month of pills. I really am not bragging, but I love the stuff. No Zomig, no Celexa, no kingdom for a Paxil!

  4. Good for you, Feldspar. :) I'm glad you found something that works for you. It works for me, too, but as I said above, I wonder sometimes whether it's truly my depression or maybe my addiction to paroxetine that makes it so.

  5. I actually wanted to read this to see what I had told you only two months ago. As I am sure you have read my FB e-mail, you can see I have made a 180 degree turn in my opinion. I am not quite sure why I never had the withdrawal symptoms before, but...ugh...they were bad this time. It didn't help that on the Monday night that I had spoken of in my e-mail, a stupid ex-boyfriend called and pissed me off beyond belief which I am pretty sure triggered the withdrawal. Needless to say, his # is now banned from my phone. Idiot. lesson to all...don't piss people off when they are just getting off their meds. And speaking of withdrawal, I actually have the eye zap thing right now. It tends to happen at night when I am reading or on the computer. Nothing like being to able to hear your own eye movements. On a slightly funnier note, prior to the onset of the bad withdrawl, I was sitting in my hotel room in TX and I kept hearing this strange noise coming form the air conditioner. So I turned it up, then down, but it kept making the "swoosh, swoosh' noise. Well, this is precisley why I bring ear plugs to hotles (you never know what noises you'll find). Well, imagine my surprise when I figure out that it isn't the AC, but just the zaps in my head. I have to say that I really am glad that I didn't call the front desk to complain. They would have come in and thought, "this chick is CRAZY, she is hearing things." And though I know I don't want to have this symptom forever, I actually kind of find ot kind of cool to hear at night. I mean, how many other people get to hear their eyes move?