Toothaches and Trust

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I don’t usually write personal rants, but this week I have only one thing on my mind.

Because, you see, I have the worst toothache I’ve ever had. In fact, as pain goes, I’d say it’s right up there with the two C-sections I’ve had. Worse than labor? MEH (My Engineer Husband) asked. “Yes. Worse than labor. On-Pitocin-for 8-hours-then-C-section worse than labor.”

Perhaps and hopefully obviously, I went to the dentist (last Tuesday). To give you an idea of the kind of pain we’re talking about, I had taken 2 (okay, 3) Advil, but don’t tell my almost-doctor son, and I could still feel the tooth pain. Searing pain at night like someone was dangling on a raw nerve in my cheek that then ran up into my eye making my eye feel like it might fall out of my head. It was bad.

Earlier that Tuesday on a routine follow up to my dermatologist (I had melanoma 6 years ago), I had a steroid injection into a small scar. Two shots into my back with no local anesthesia. It hurt like HELL. I clamped my hands together and wanted to scream. But it didn’t hurt as much as the toothache. Maybe if I’d had to get injection after injection after injection of the steroid, then maybe.

The dentist determined that this same tooth (which has already had a root canal) has been giving me trouble for a while. It may need to be “re-treated” (that’s another root canal) or extracted. GULP. Not only would this be a painful procedure that would require recovery time, but it also would be quite costly. I begged the dentist (actually asked nicely, he’s a really nice guy) to try another round of antibiotics—last time was 3 years ago.

I’ve now been on the antibiotics for 5 days. Z-pak. And the pain is a lot better—not gone but better. On my original visit, my dentist said if necessary (I still had some pain) I could have a second round of antibiotics to make sure the infection is wiped out. After what I just read in the NY Times, I may be requesting one regardless.

Here’s the point of this post

Turns out that India—which is “the second-largest exporter of over-the-counter and prescription drugs to the United States” is under “increased scrutiny” for safety lapses and falsified drug test results and SELLING FAKE MEDICINES. As I read this article, which was delivered to my inbox, not sought out… no, I’m not one of those people who researches everything about a medication I’m taking…I’m thinking to myself, think I, “surely not antibiotics…”

But I quote: “One widely used antibiotic was found to contain no active ingredient…the test (that determined this) was kept secret for nearly a year while some 100,000 useless pills continued to be dispensed.”

100,000 PILLS. To people with toothaches. Searing pain. That’s what I was thinking as I was reading this morning.

I don’t mean to make a joke out of this. Believe me, it’s not a joke because this is much more serious than I’m making it out to be. Counterfeit medicines are suspected of playing a role in the deaths of HUNDREDS of infants in recent years in a hospital in Kashmir.

Some fake tablets were used to prevent post-surgical infections in pregnant women. Other medications that were equally fake were chemotherapy drugs given to people with cancer. That means cancer patients were given INACTIVE drugs.

Fakes and Flies

On the one hand, it makes my toothache feel inconsequential, but on the other hand, I’m madder than hell. Inspections are lax. Warnings are issued but not heeded. As soon as I read the article, I ran to the kitchen to check the manufacturing country of my antibiotic (I never knew there was such a thing), and I was relieved to see that it was manufactured in Croatia (a country not mentioned in the article). I never had any idea I would need to check something like this—but from now on I will not take any medication that is manufactured in India or China (also a serious offender of counterfeiting and poor inspection).

Now, I’ve not researched Croatia’s track record, and I’m not going to, but if my pain is not completely gone at the end of this course of antibiotics, I will ask for a second round prior to a costly and invasive treatment or extraction…just for my own peace of mind. To be fair, I should say that 190 million doses of antibiotics are administered each day, so the possibility I’m on a fake is an extreme longshot. I know that, but, still, if… the World Health Organization estimates that one in five drugs made in India are fakes, and flies were found, people, FLIES “too numerous to count” in critical plant areas…then, I’m connecting the dots here, that’s all.

I’m assuming (but not certain) that inspections are better in this country… because supposedly the FDA “applies the same standards for all drug manufacturing facilities” wherever they are in the world ( However…according to the Times article: “Enforcement of regulations over all is very week, analysts say, and India’s government does a poor job policing many of its industries.” So maybe some places aren’t held to quite the same standards as others?

In any event, for the time being—and at least with this toothache—make mine MADE IN THE USA, name-brand, please.


  1. Julie Luek says:

    Oh Julia, well first, I’m so sorry for your tooth ache. Mouth stuff is miserable. All those nerves! :( But secondly, that information is good to know but worrisome. What else don’t they inspect? Having just gone through all our medical stuff, it’s scary to know! Hope you feel better soon.

    • Yes, mouth stuff is miserable, I agree… it’s better but still, the nerve of those nerves! :-/ Glad I was able to pass the info along, and as you say, what else isn’t inspected/enforced? Sheesh. So happy for you that your med stuff is behind you (for more than this reason!! YAY!!). Here’s to good health!

  2. Shary says:

    Poor Julia! You can’t (at least I can’t) focus on anything when you have pain like that. Fingers crossed that you’ll be able to knock out the infection and keep your tooth. I’m going to try not to be paranoid about medications, but as someone who must take a prescription pill daily, it’s vital that what I take is the real deal. I’m off to the medicine cabinet to check.

    • As you say, focus is difficult, and I DO have deadlines ;-) Yes, I’m hoping the infection is knocked out, too. I’m with you, I don’t want to be paranoid, but I do think it pays to be prudent. Here’s hoping your medicine chest trip was completely reassuring!

  3. Micky Wolf says:

    So sorry to know you are going through such misery, Julia. Wow, and I’m also headed for the medicine cabinet. You have done us a service by sharing this info–who would have known? Sure hoping this round of antibiotics does the job and you are back on track real soon. :)

  4. So sorry about your horrendous toothache, Julia. If it is worse than labor (on Pitocin!), then I know it is truly unbearable. Praying for your complete recovery soon.

    • Thanks, Jolina. Yes, worse than Pitocin, can you believe it’s possible? I’m wondering if it’s partially because with Pitocin you know something positive is happening… with a toothache? Not so much, haha. Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words :-)

  5. Julia —

    Holy Cannoli! I had no idea about the drug manufacturing scams and that people — children and adults — are dying because of it. I’m so glad you shared this information. I’m just sorry that you discovered it at such a painful cost.

  6. Leah says:

    Wow that’s crazy! Can you imagine how many deaths and the pain that could have been avoided?! Scary

  7. Eeks… I’m horrified! Like the others, I had NO clue about Rx prescriptions. Can we not make ANYthing here in the U.S.? (I’ll stop my rant there. For now.) What a dirty secret… and so potentially harmful. Cancer patients thinking they’re getting cancer-killing chemo, and they’re NOT? That’s unconscionable.

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a crappy week. I have all my fingers, toes, hairs, eyelashes, etc. crossed that the antibiotic dosages do the trick and you do not have to have a “do over” on the root canal. You know how much I LOVE root canals and hurty teeth, myself (not)… Hang in there, friend.

    • Isn’t the Rx situation horrifying?? What’s so odd is that there are TONS of meds made in the US but they seem to be safer (I think). But, why oh why can’t we enforce things? Inspect things, too? It’s awful. Anyway, my pain is better (not gone) so I’m hoping for another round of USA-nongeneric meds and keep fingers crossed for no root canal do over or extraction (gulp). Yes, I know we’re twinsies and perhaps millionsies (I guess everyone hates it) about this kind of stuff…

  8. Ugh, toothache pain is terrible. It’s like when I get one of my searing migraines. There is no relief, no position to be in to mitigate the pain.
    I had not read that NYT article. It’s sad and horrifying to think that people who need medication to help keep them alive or cure them of an illness are receiving fakes in the name of money. Thanks for shedding light on that. I’ll definitely keep an eye on my medications.

    Most of all, I hope you’re feeling better soon!

    • Thanks, Jackie, I appreciate your empathy. I know what you mean about the searing migraines (I get those too). There is no relief or way to mitigate the pain — exactly. Glad to alert you to the article in the Times, too.

  9. Sarah Witte says:

    Hi Julia,
    I agree that a bad toothache is at the top of the list for pain we don’t want. I think it’s partly because it’s just too close to our brains where we have to think about it… there is just no way to put any distance between the source and the awareness of the pain. Hope it’s ALL better soon and uh, thanks for the heads up on the appalling rx situation.

  10. Christine M Grote says:

    This is very disconcerting, Julia. I had no idea.
    And I do sympathize with you and your tooth pain. I had a nerve go bad on one of my teeth and I thought I was going to die. It was really scary pain. I got some good drugs from my dentist and set timers to make sure they never wore off. Sadly, I had to have that tooth extracted.i hope it goes better for you.

    Thanks for the heads up, and I hope you feel better.

  11. ML Swift says:

    Oh Julia,

    YIKES! This is discouraging to hear, to say the least. And to make matters worse, I’m having dental problems that need addressing. Make my antibios and painkillers “Made in the USA” too!

    Feel better, and thanks for the alert!

    • Thanks for the comment and sympathy, Michael! It’s discouraging and worrisome, and scary to think about while we need to resolve these dental issues…. here’s to USA all the way and no counterfeits!

  12. Oh, Julia! Toothache pain is terrible. Hope you feel better soon.

  13. Barb Riley says:

    You are one of three friends who has insisted that tooth-related pain, especially root canals and/or extractions, are WORSE than labor. Yikes! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had to endure that level of misery. But I thank you for bringing the whole fake medicine debacle to my attention. It’s always good to be informed of this type of scam.

    I sure hope you’re able to resolve the tooth issue soon (and inexpensively). Hang in there!

    • Glad to hear there are others (what? NO, I mean that it’s nice to know I’m not a complete wimp!). Strangely root canals themselves have never bothered me, but now I’m very worried about all of it, especially knowing the meds debate. Ugh. Thanks for your support, Barb, it means so much!

  14. Oh man, now I feel *especially* bad that you started reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Tooth.” You poor thing! The worst pain I’ve ever had was when I got two dry sockets after having my wisdom teeth removed. I still remember it vividly. I hope you get well soon. The drug thing is terrifying. The scope of things like this is truly overwhelming to me. Yikes!

    • Hahaha, don’t worry, Annie, as soon as I read the first page, I knew I had to stop. Dry sockets are terrible! (I had one when I had my wisdom teeth out, too) Yes, the drug thing is overwhelming, I agree. Thanks for your well wishes.

  15. Patrick Ross says:

    As others have said, let me begin by extending my sympathies to you for your tooth situation. Not good.

    And you are definitely on to something with the pharmaceutical argument. You’ve entered into my day-job world here. Counterfeit drugs are a real problem, leading to unnecessary deaths around the world. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, managed by cartels, just like cocaine or heroin. And the counterfeiters do a great job of making the medicine “look” like the real thing, but as you note, it rarely is, either containing a diluted dose or no dose at all (or, worse, dangerous chemicals that can kill).

    It’s great that you’ve shared this with your readers.

    • Thanks for the sympathy, Patrick — I really appreciate it! As for the pharmaceuticals, I really admire your dayjob… such an important message to get out. I knew there was some problem but had no idea (until I read the Times article) how big it was. Honestly, I had to share because since I read it, I’ve thought of little else, my toothache a constant reminder. Thanks for adding to my education and keep up the important work.

  16. Wow, Julia, this is so scary! Thanks for sharing, and I’m so sorry to hear about the toothache. I know that kind of pain is the worst. I hope you’re feeling better soon!

  17. Cynthia Robertson says:

    I hope you are feeling better by now, Julia. Tooth pain is terrible (been there!). I had heard of the bad/fake drugs coming out of India and China. It’s a crying shame what greed is allowed to do in this world of ours. Some people have no conscious whatsoever.
    Feel better, dear.

    • Thanks, Cynthia… I think once you’ve been there, not only can you relate, but it’s something you never want to return to, either! It really is horrifying to see the truly large scale consequences (yet very tiny person by person consequences) of greed, and I agree, some people seem to have no conscience whatsover.

  18. Good grief. I had no idea that our medicines were made overseas like that. I guess everything else is so I shouldn’t be surprised. Croatia? That just seems bizarre. I live in a little bubble of my own mind’s making I guess. Hope by now your toothache is better.

    • The toothache is taking its sweet time… but it’s getting better. Thanks for your sympathy. As for your little bubble, I’m there with you. That article truly opened my eyes and makes me realize that the bubble may be bursting.

  19. Nina says:

    This is so shocking and upsetting! Totally worthy of a rant. I hope you’re on the up and up. Tooth pain is so truly awful.

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