I began to create art about pain in 1998. This work is about my personal and political experience of having been injured by a delayed reaction to the antibiotic Levaquin. It resulted in achilles tendon ruptures from the base of the foot to the back of the knees. It has improved but has not completely healed. It has also inspired art about the combination of pain and anger, since the drug company aggressively promotes this drug as safe and they minimize it’s potential harm. They hide the facts from patients about the mechanism that can cause catastrophic delayed reactions. It is not a matter of being allergic to it. (Levaquin was created in the 1960’s as a cancer drug, and found to also be an antibiotic.)
FDA and research studies inform us that serious permanent damage is far more prevalent than reported. Victims are the ones who are supposed to report their reactions to the FDA’s “medwatch” system. Most people have never heard of “medwatch” and reactions are rarely reported. Drug companies can still claim “reactions are rare” and keep it high on the list for hospitals to routinely prescribe after any kind of surgery or infection.
Pain is very personal, yet universal, it takes many forms. Pain that does not heal is particularly difficult. It has given me though, an opportunity to help people communicate to their physicians and others what pain feels like; art is often more effective than words or what an MRI may or may not demonstrate. My pain art appears on websites and has been featured in medical journals.
I hope this collection will be exhibited in Medical Schools to help elucidate what an adverse drug reaction can feel like, and prompt discussion on how drug companies tip the scales in favor of risk and profit over patient safety. The FDA has received over 150,000 reports of adverse reactions from 1987 to 2002 but they estimate they receive only 1 to 10 percent of the total number of adverse reactions. Greater public awareness is needed on the drug problems caused by private industry and lax government oversight, which is encouraged by the industry itself.
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