Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2009

bcpRecently, Hema my niece sent me this chain mail and asked my opinion about it


Recently this past week, my cousin Nicole Dishuk (age 31…newly graduated student with a doctoral degree about to start her new career as a Doctor…) was flown into a nearby hospital, because she passed out.

They found a blood clot in her neck, and immediately took her by helicopter to the ER to operate. By the time they removed the right half of her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain; the clot had spread to her brain causing severe damage.

Since last Wednesday night, she was battling… they induced her into a coma to stop the blood flow, they operated 3 times… Finally, they said there was nothing left that they could do… they found multiple clots in the left side of her brain… the swelling wouldn’t stop, and she was on life support…

She died at 4:30 yesterday. She leaves behind a husband, a 2yr old Brandon and a 4yr old Justin… The CAUSE of DEATH – they found was a birth control she was taking that allows you to only have your period 3 times a year… They said it interrupts life’s menstrual cycle, and although it is FDA approved… shouldn’t be – So to the women in my address book – I ask you to boycott this product & deal with your period once a month – so you can live the rest of the months that your life has in store for you….”

The mail goes on to name the products by trade name and asks people to boycott them. Hem wanted me to opine on this. Here is my reply to her:

Every drug has side effects. But in general, modern drugs will undergo many checks and tests in order to be extremely safe. So it is unlikely that hundreds and hundreds of women who take birth control pill drugs are dying such horrible deaths regularly.

Let me illustrate safety of important drugs with an example. A patient of mine, who has a serious heart disease,  is on aspirin for many years. We know that aspirin prevents death due to heart attacks and strokes. So, it is possible that this guy lives on thanks to aspirin.

Now, the other day this patient started vomiting blood and was rushed to the hospital almost in an unconscious state. Fortunately we were all there and despite the fact that he had vomited over one and a half litres of blood we managed to transfuse blood to him and take him up for a test called as endoscopy. This test showed that he had a huge ulcer in the stomach which was continuously bleeding. That bleeding was controlled by endoscopic treatment and the patient went home after 3 days of recovery time.

I can easily make a huge story about this and send a chain email which says: Aspirin causes big bleeding ulcers and you can die of a horrible death, so all you heart patients please stop taking aspirin! And also I could request ‘everyone who cares about your near and dear ones to forward this mail to as many people as possible and prevent hundreds of deaths!’ Yet I prescribe aspirin to literally hundreds every month because it saves too many lives

If you ban birth control pills based on such sensational stories then you will have a billion people in each state of India and we will all die because there will not be enough food to eat for all of us!

It is possible that this story is true. But whoever wrote it up made it look so  gruesome to you tend to vilify the drug. And when you read this, you are not reading the positive side of this drug. Worse, people maybe forwarding such mails to their contacts without even verifying if it was true thus causing panic and misinformation about drugs.

As I said at the beginning, every drug has side effects. Thanks to research and regulations modern drugs are very safe and serious side effects are extremely rare. Rather, far more lives are saved by the good effects of drugs than are lost due to their adverse effects. Patients who take medicines should consult doctors and learn about the positive and negative effects of drugs, balance the possible risks with possible benefits and then take the decision to use the drug or not, rather than being tricked by such mails!

If you have more chain mails on medical stuff, send them to me. Let’s look at them objectively.