Search Site 
Disability Attornies
Find A Doctor
Drugs Used In FM & CFS/ME
In-Person Support Groups

Archived Poll Results
Candles of Hope
CMP Info.
Family and Friends
Financial Help
Letter To Loved Ones
Living With FM & CFS/ME
Newly Diagnosed
Rate Your Meds  -  Results
Recommend Doctor
Researchers Spotlight

Take Quiz
Quiz Winners
Patient Surveys


A few years ago the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pushed for the use of a standardized over the counter (OTC) medication label in order to help consumers better understand the drugs they were using (or at least purchasing over the counter).

However, the only way consumers can be helped is to READ the labels. Many of us buy a product without ever thinking,

"is this going to react with other medications I'm taking?"

In the October 2008 Newsletter (which is no longer being published) I published the article, Seven Very Dangerous Over-The-Counter Drugs, regarding the safety of some over OTC drugs. Two days after the newsletter was sent out I received a letter from my dear friend Barb who suffers with Fibromyalgia (FM). This is what she wrote:

A Real-Life Example

"There is one OTC medication out there that I've used recently, like just five days ago, and felt like I almost was dying. The truth! It is called Zostrix HP. It's a lotion, like Ben-Gay, and comes in a tube. Only this is WICKED stuff! I bought a tube, for $20! I had some really bad right arm and shoulder pain one day, so picked this up, in fact, my pharmacist recommended it to me!"

"Now, here's the bad part. I used it without reading the directions. I used it as I would BenGay. I got home, took off my blouse and bra, and slathered it all up and down my arm, neck, shoulder, and surrounding areas. Ten to fifteen minutes later I received these lovely symptoms: Burning, (felt exactly like a bad sunburn!), a little swelling, red rash, INTENSE itching, very hot to the touch, and almost a feeling of numbness! All that in about 15 minutes."

"Well, that was just the beginning. I got dizzy, nauseated, SLEEPY as all hell, and felt as though my heart was beating slow. My breathing was even slow. I was SO tired! I didn't understand WHY I was getting all these weird symptoms just from a damned lotion! I mean, okay, my first thought was, "I'm allergic to this stuff." But, when the other symptoms, (tiredness, nausea, dizziness, and balance problems) appeared, I knew there was a slight problem. Then it DAWNED on me that I was getting a large amount of FENTANYL (pain patch...75 mcg.) dispersed in my system at a fast rate. Why? Heat."

"I remembered my pain doctor telling me, when using the pain patch be careful of HEAT. Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially if the sun is beating down on you. Try to avoid warm rooms. Do NOT use heating pads for a long length of time, in fact avoid using them at all. Watch out for FEVER. If you're taking a hot shower, make it fast, do not take a hot bath, warm but not hot."

"I was feeling more and more nauseated and sleepy. I jumped up from bed, and was actually staggering as if I were drunk! I ran the shower, a very, very COOL one! I washed that damned stuff off my arms with soap ASAP! I sat down in the tub and let the COOL water shower all over me for a good long time. I then towel-dried myself. Still tired, I managed to suck down 2 cups of strong, COOL, instant coffee. I put two ice cubes in each cup. I got two ice packs out put them in a towel and laid it on my still rashly, red, burning inflamed arm! I ate some crackers with COLD water. (for nausea)"

"I opened the screen bedroom windows. Luckily it was a COLD day. I was feeling so damned warm. Then I ate some Hershey chocolate bars, the large block size. Not the whole block but at least half!! (lol) And WHY I ate chocolate is beyond me, perhaps I thought if I'm dying, I'll die happy!"

Lessons Learned

Thankfully Barb is a nurse and knew how to counteract the Zostrix. I'm sure there are many of us who wouldn't have known what to do, and we could have possibly ended up in a coma or worse. So in Barb's words:

"Perhaps you may want to "use" my story some how to WARN anyone with FM, CMP, CFS/ME, etc., who are using FENTANYL pain patches about the dangers of using Zostrix!!! Now, because I didn't have the brains to READ the Zostrix label, I have suffered greatly! Who knows, maybe I COULD have gone comatose? Died? I don't know, but very sick? YES!!!!"


Please remember to ALWAYS read the labels! The Drug Database consists of many of the medications used in the treatment of FM and CFS/ME. All medications come with warnings and drug interactions. If you're unsure about the medications you're taking be sure to look them up. Be aware and be SAFE!

You May Also Like

Return to Top