“Your minor abrasion might hurt less, but…”
If you’ve ever taken your time to look at the shelves for something in a drug store – like, toothpaste or antibiotic ointment – you’d find that there seem to be an excess of varieties available. I often spend a lot of time picking the ‘best one’ and have wondered if it’s a waste of time: Does it really matter? Is there any real difference? Aren’t all those different labels just marketing ploys promoting different combinations of buzz words in an attempt to reach every available consumer niche?
Well, the other day I ended up with two different kinds of Polysporin: “Polysporin Extra Infection Protection” and “Polysporin Extra Infection Protection + Pain Relief.” What was the difference, really? You might be surprised…
Both products have the same active and inactive ingredients in equal concentrations (polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, Gramicidin, Cocoa Butter, cottonseed oil, olive oil, petrolatum, sodium pyruvate and vitamin E), with the exception that the “+ Pain Relief” version also has Lidocaine. Maybe this wouldn’t matter, if not for the other discrepancies between the labels.
While most of the directions and warnings are the same, under the “Stop use and ask a doctor if” section there are some additions of concern. While both state “Stop use and ask a doctor if: irritation occurs; new symptoms appear; the condition gets worse or lasts longer than 7 days” the “+ Pain Relief” product also states “or recurs within a few days; you experience weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty breathing, pale grey or blue coloured skin.”
That’s concerning, right? I mean, companies are always reminding us how expensive it is to change labels on things (often to warn us that accurate labels would increase the cost to consumers), so I imagine they didn’t add these lines for fun. It leads one to believe that the listed undesirable effects are common enough to be of concern. That this cream, may make you weak and confused, give you a headache, make it hard to breath and discolour your skin, in exchange for your booboo not hurting quite so much. Would anyone noticing this discrepancy ever choose to take the ‘+ pain relief’ version’? I expect not.
This happens to remind me of a dialogue I had with a little kid I was taking care of once. He was considered to be a bit of a handful. Out on the playground he got a scrape, and it really might have been the end of the world. This is what he said:
“I never want another booboo again. I’m never doing anything again… I had no booboos, and now I have one! This is upsetting me. I don’t want tears, and I have tears! This is serious, this is hurting me! Ouchy! OWWWWWWW! I don’t want another booboo never! never! never! again. I don’t want to play anymore.”
I don’t think he noticed me scrambling to write it all down – I didn’t get it all, but those were the highlights. Just keep in mind that this monologue was spread out over long minutes with frequent pauses of him feeling sorry for himself and contemplating what life was going to be like now that he would never play ever again, so as to avoid another booboo.
Maybe that kid (five or six years old), would risk the lidocaine in full knowledge of the additional risks involved. But it’s hard today. He’d forgotten his decree in about twenty minutes and was playing again later in the afternoon. And while he might like the idea of having zombie-like skin colourations, I don’t think he’d carry a headache very well.
All this, of course, makes me exceedling curious about the safety trials when Johnson and Johnson modified their polysporin formula for pain relief. I wonder whose skin turned blue, and how much the hurting stopped, and if they thought it was worth it.