We may have the same friends. The same ones who take NyQuil when they're not really sick, just to help them sleep. So they're taking it for the diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which is much more cheaply purchased alone and as a generic. DayQuil is dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, and phenylephrine. The actual ideal medication combination for her friends in this case, Angelotti noted, is simply the last two: the decongestant and the pain reliever. Taking the extra dextromethorphan is a low-risk proposition, but it's not without some side effects and a waste of money.
Angelotti, formerly at Google, has now co-created a program that can help people pare down their options. On the Iodine site, you can click on the symptoms you're experiencing, and that will comb a database of common cold-and-flu products and tell you which ones meet your needs. The results also include product reviews (via Google, with over 100,000 medication reviews so far), dosage forms (liquid or pill), active ingredients, and the names of generic versions at various pharmacies.
"I know that people, in large part, just walk into a drugstore when they have a cold and grab DayQuil or Tylenol Multisymptom Cold, or whatever, because they know it's going to cover the symptoms that they have," said Angelotti. "But I also know that a lot of people are taking more ingredients in these combination meds than they actually need. That's going to put them at risk for side effects or overdose, especially with Tylenol. And there are dangers, like for someone with high blood pressure who is taking phenylephrine."
In October, Iodine released an extension for Google Chrome that will highlight any medical jargon on a web page and translate it into plain language. It's cool and easy to use, as is this new cold and flu app. Though I can't see myself using it, because I usually keep generic single-drug products around. A family, or a sickness-inclined person living alone, could very reasonably keep the five aforementioned individual generic medications in their medicine cabinet and address the symptoms as they arise. I think that's easier than messing with combination products, and usually cheaper. Especially if you consider that you're not taking medications you don't need.
I tried to convince Angelotti that's the way to go, but she was adamant that many or even most people really like to take one pill that addresses all of their symptoms. "I don't know if people will be likely to have their own inventory of generic over-the-counter medications in their homes," she said.
Iodine's press release this week was similarly practical of expectation. It told the story of one patient who had used the cold-and-flu tool, "Mary, a 69-year-old woman in the Pacific Northwest." She said, "My husband now has a cold, and the Iodine app confirmed that the product he had chosen was a correct one! The reinforcement was wonderful!"
That's such a reasonable endorsement. Wouldn't it be more powerful if your husband chose the wrong medication, though, Mary? And Iodine helped him find the right one? It's a press release, Mary. The iodine algorithm saved your husband from the brink of ruin. His newfound sense of consumer empowerment was so invigorating to his spirit that he no longer needed any Mucinex at all.