“Death by Prescription: A Father Takes on His Daughter’s Killer”

* See NEWS UPDATE below

When I first heard him interviewed on CBC Radio, I had to stop chopping my red peppers for that night’s pasta sauce. I was utterly riveted by Terence Young‘s compelling story about the tragic death of his 15-year old daughter, Vanessa. His story began 11 years ago on an ordinary spring evening at home near Toronto, while his wife Gloria was also preparing dinner for the family, just as I was doing. Vanessa suddenly collapsed to the floor. Her heart had stopped.

When ambulance paramedics asked if Vanessa had been taking any drugs, her stricken parents replied: “Just Prepulsid.” Prepulsid was the brand name for the drug cisapride, commonly prescribed at the time to treat gastrointestinal issues like indigestion or constipation.

What Terence Young later learned was that cisapride was clearly contraindicated for Vanessa, and that the drug had been associated with hundreds of suspicious deaths in Canada and the United States.  Continue reading

How a new drug gets approved

alarm clock boyPity the poor schmuck who has no trouble falling asleep at bedtime, but is then wide awake in the middle of the night, staring bleakly at those evil green numbers on the clock radio for the next four hours. Have you been there yourself?  What if there were a magical pill we could take in the middle of those nights that would help us drift off to sleep again for just a few more hours until morning?

Enter the drug Intermezzo, a potential treatment for people suffering from this specific form of insomnia that involves difficulty falling asleep after waking up in the middle of the night.  Continue reading