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The death of actress Brittany Murphy – a tragedy and a lesson learned

March 3, 2010

Actress Brittany Murphy died on December 20th in her Hollywood Hills home, and according to CNN.com her death was due to “an accident caused by a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and multiple drug intoxication.”  The full autopsy report said that, “multiple medications were present in the blood, with elevated levels of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, and chlorphenaniramine.  L-methamphetamine was also present.”  The cornoner reported that “the pattern of use of these medications suggest treatment of symptoms of a cold or other respiratory infection.”  Her death was tragic, senseless and perhaps, avoidable.

We all can recount experiences in our lives where we have been ill, perhaps suffering from multiple symptoms at once and attempted to treat our illness without seeing a Doctor through self medication with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication or a combination of OTC medicines.  But before you took that OTC or combination of OTC medications, did you truly understand the active ingredients, proper dosage amounts, possible side effects and repercussions if you experienced certain pre-existing conditions or were already taking a prescription drug?  Chances are, you walked into the Drugstore or Pharmacy, went straight to the OTC aisle, grabbed your tried and tested medicine and went home to let it go to work on curing your condition.  So often, we as consumers become medication creatures of habit and since we are constantly bombarded by ads, commercials and promotions for OTC and prescription medications we listen and believe the message about how that drug treats such and such an illness or condition and in addition, portrays real life testimonials from people who have tried and used the medications with great success.  Heck, if it worked for Sally Sue on the TV commercial and she is experiencing exactly what I am, why can’t it work for me?  Shouldn’t we trust these drug manufacturers to be honest in their advertising, true to their morals in explaining possible side effects and just in their integrity in depicting these medications as an “across the board” remedy regardless of a consumer’s unique situation?

While it is true that the FDA monitors and regulates these advertisements closely to protect consumers from drug manufacturers falsifying information or stretching the truth about the ability of the medication to cure your ills, often times (just as most other fine print ads do – ex. automobiles), the serious due diligence that is required for consumers to perform before using the medication is relegated to teeny tiny print at the bottom of the ad which, let’s face it, very few of us read.  Could Brittany Murphy’s death been avoided if she had more fully understood the severity of possible dangerous and toxic combinations in the medications she was taking?  Her husband reported that shortly before her death, “she was on an antibiotic and was taking cough medicine.”

We do not know if Ms. Murphy had done the proper research on her medications before taking them to treat her illness or what resources (if any) she sought out prior to making the decision to mix multiple drugs but at Medilyzer we are determined to ensure that consumers have access to convenient and comprehensive tools that offer clear and accurate information about prescription and OTC medications.  It is exactly the type of case that Ms. Murphy experienced that Medilyzer is trying hard to prevent by empowering consumers to take control of their health and their choices in medications through education and research.  We offer technology solutions that include the ability to better understand the drug label and leaflet information on prescription and OTC medications plus check if there are any dangerous side effects through combinations of these medications in order to save lives and remove the tremendous financial burden that is placed on our health care system due to misusing these types of drugs.  We want to break the cycle of the consumer “if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me” mentality so that people understand that their body is a unique engine, susceptible to different degrees of reaction and interaction depending on many different circumstances.  Our solution to the growing concern of medication misuse is captured in four easy to use interfaces.  Please take the time to visit our site, and browse through our resources.  If you use a smart phone, download the application and take it with you wherever you go.  You can also visit our YouTube channel to watch educational videos on OTC and prescription drug safety and see firsthand how Medilyzer is making a difference.

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