My name is Diana Sherman, I am just a regular person with a family. We live in a small town on the coast of Washington State. I’m writing today because I have a permanent injury from a prescription medicine.
My life and the lives of those close to me were turned upside down because I was not warned of a known, disabling side effect of a drug. What happened to me happens every day to countless other unsuspecting people taking countless different medicines. It happens when the companies that make and distribute medicines decide that profits are more important than patients.
In 2004, I told my primary care doctor that sometimes I had trouble swallowing my food. Worse, when it happened I’d get terrible chest pain. My doctor said I had acid reflux and referred me to a specialist. The specialist gave me medicine that blocked acid. That didn’t work. So, he prescribed Reglan. He told me it would help the muscles in my digestive system work better.
My pharmacy gave me a generic version of Reglan called metoclopramide. Generics, as we all know, cost less. The specialist kept me on metoclopramide for the next six years even though I still had episodes where I had trouble swallowing. Sometimes, the chest pain was so severe that I feared that I was having a heart attack. The specialist, though, told me to stay on the drug. He also asked me to change my diet. After six years, though, I had had enough. I stopped taking the drug.
I’d like to say that things got better. They didn’t. Soon I was gripped with anxiety and restlessness. I was referred to a neurologist. He said my anxiety and restlessness were “extrapyramidal symptoms.” He laid it out for me. I had tardive dyskinesia (TD) and tardive akathisia (TA). He said they were caused by my long-term use of metoclopramide.
I’d never heard of tardive dyskinesia, tardive akathisia nor how serious and permanent they are. So, you can probably imagine my shock to learn that manufacturers had known about the risks for years. Years! They had even published a warning that Reglan should not be used for longer than 12 weeks. Not only that, but in 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued what is known as a “black box warning.”
The FDA wanted to alert doctors that the medicine should rarely be used for longer than 12 weeks and only if the benefits outweighed the risk of serious side effects. I wasn’t even close to being a “rare case where the benefits would outweigh the risks.” But few doctors get their information about drugs from the FDA. They depend on the pharmaceutical sales reps who call on them regularly. Guess what? The big drug companies didn’t have their reps get the word out to doctors about Reglan and the new warning.
I turns out there are thousands of people out there suffering just like me for the same reason. Most victims with serious side effects developed tardive dyskinesia, like I did. TD is a type of irreversible brain damage that can make the muscles of your entire body move without rhyme or reason. TA is an awful type of mental and physical restlessness. You only get TD or TA by taking certain types of drugs, and now the FDA has told doctors that Reglan is the most common cause.
TD is awful. There are involuntary facial movements that make me appear strange. Sometimes my body will jerk or shake uncontrollably. Yes, it’s scary, but it can also be painful. Sometimes it is worse than other times, but it is always bad. Yes, people look at me funny. They think I’m crazy and twitching on purpose. Kids certainly don’t understand. Some are afraid of me. It is so embarrassing that I don’t like to be around people who don’t know me. I feel isolated and that’s one of the hardest to deal with. I have been experiencing these horrible side effects since 2010. And it’s not going to stop. Ever. There is no cure for TD.
So why weren’t the doctors aware of these side effects?
Drug companies put billions into marketing and advertising their products, but telling doctors about the dangers of drugs doesn’t increase sales. And there is only so much the FDA can do – and it’s less than you think. Unfortunately, some drug companies do the absolute minimum to tell doctors about the risks of medicines. Shockingly, some manufacturers of Reglan actually mislead doctors! Other failed to adequately correct the misleading information when this was required.
I am joining with The Conte Foundation to hold companies accountable for their bad decisions. Elizabeth Conte is a Reglan victim. She fought long and hard before settling her claim. She then did something unexpected. She paid her medical expenses then donated all the rest to create a non-profit foundation, this foundation, to enable people to advance corporate accountability.
I have suffered permanent damage that affects every part of my life and it was preventable! I believe it is time to hold the drug companies accountable. I fought Big Pharma and you can, too. I’m inspired by what Elizabeth Conte did and I donated, too
So, what can you do? If you are awarded money because of an injury, please consider donating at least 1% of the money you receive to The Conte Foundation. That 1% is a tiny sliver of your award, but if enough people do it, then The Conte Foundation will be empowered to do what needs to be done to hold companies accountable. And if your jury awards punitive damages, think about asking them to direct some of those extra funds to The Conte Foundation, as well.
Let’s make a difference together to help The Conte Foundation prevent avoidable injuries in the future. Click the link here to donate to The Conte Foundation. The foundation is a tax-exempt a non-profit corporation, so for most people a donation is tax-deductible.
And if you didn’t sue, you can still tell your story as a caution to other patients who might take Reglan/metoclopramide.
(Tax ID number 45-178181897)
Help me keep others from suffering