July 25, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)

Small Problem, Big Bucks

To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.

Hippocrates, c.400B.C.

Some remedies are worse than the diseases.

Publilius Syrus, c.50B.C.

The evening news on television usually has a clever commercial for Detrol (tolteradine) along with the news. It features a woman who has to pee desperately. One commercial features a woman on a golf course who has to go. After she has gone and urinated, her golf game is still lousy, Detrol is supposed to fix the urge to urinate problem, even though it will do nothing for someone's golf game. There are a number of variations on the same theme in different commercials for the same product.

Jimmy Duranty had a song with a lyric that said, "Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go; still had the feeling that you wanted to stay." I have had that problem for all of my life. It is a consequence of my mother wanting me to urinate when she wanted me to, rather than when I felt that I had to. The sound or sight of running liquid (water or gasoline) made me want to pee. It is a minor annoyance; not, as the commercial implies, a major disaster.

The person who has to "go" in the commercial is invariably a female. Why a female, since men have the same problem? That is because it is a lot easier for a male to step behind a tree and men are rarely embarrassed by having to urinate. Young boys even have contests to see who can pee the farthest.

There is an old joke about a man who was annoyed over his wife always putting him down, who responded with, "At least I can pee higher than you can!" "The hell you can!" said his wife, as she took his hand and led him to their back yard, where there was a high fence. She lifted her skirt, dropped her drawers and let fly against the fence, saying, "Let's see you beat that." He replied, "I can beat that easily." As he was about to start, she cautioned, "No hands!"

I looked up Detrol in H. Winter Griffith's book Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs; a book that should be in every home. It is a drug that you need a doctor's prescription for. It acts by inhibiting the contraction of the muscles of the urinary bladder. It also takes one to two hours to work, so it has to be taken long before you might want not to urinate. The usual dose is one 2 mg. pill per day. Common side effects are "Change in vision; difficult, burning or painful urination; frequent urge to urinate; bloody or cloudy urine, Chest pain, dizziness, dry mouth, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, headache, flue-like symptoms, drowsiness, dry eyes, flatulence(gas)." There is also evidence from animal experiments that the drug might affect the fetus if a woman is pregnant.

As modern drugs go, it's not frightfully expensive. Still, if a person takes one tablet once a day, it would amount to about $600 a year.

I figure that anyone who takes a drug, with side effects like that, for a problem that isn't life threatening, should have her head examined. While she is having her head examined, she might discover that any psychologist or psychiatrist can decondition her, if she wants to spend the time and money that it takes to do it. My wife tells me that elementary school teachers learn how to hold their water without any help. There are no side effects of that treatment, other than the cost. She might also discover that anyone who believes what TV commercials say should have her head examined.

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