Every Friday Michelle Polacinski, a Floxie as well as the Director and Producer of ‘Floxed,’ sends out a newsletter to those who have subscribed to the ‘Floxed’ newsletter. The Floxed Friday updates are always interesting and thoughtful, and Michelle has given me permission to share them here. 
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The following was written by Michelle: 

Oculomucocutaneous Syndrome

I was transferring footage from one drive to another and scrolling through Instagram when I realized that I could use my time in much better ways, so I picked up Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Pharma.’

I’ve been reading this book on-and-off since I started making ‘Floxed’ at another floxie’s recommendation. Dr. Ben Goldacre has produced Ted Talksand traveled around the world explaining to the public how and why large pharmaceutical companies can trick doctors with marketing tactics, but also how doctors can mess up… and how that’s normal… and sometimes, yeah, sometimes it’s deadly. Whoops.

Dr. Goldacre started this journey after he misprescribed drugs to one of his patients and hurt his patient even though he followed the information he received about that drug to a tee. How could he, upon following all the Good Doctor rules, hurt his patient?

This topic is long, confusing, and it’s understandably arduous to research and understand it all. Goldacre has written multiple books on what he has learned in his research and I’ve only gotten through the first part of ‘Bad Pharma,’ which is 100 pages long and currently chock full of highlights, underlines, and various annotations.

This particular thing caught my eye just now: Oculomucocuaneous Syndrome. This particular syndrome isn’t just an illness that comes on randomly nor is it a virus or some kind of disease. No, it’s actually what Goldacre describes as a “horrific” multi-system side effect of the drug ‘practolol.’

Practolol was a beta-blocker drug used for heart problems that had a side effect in humans which didn’t occur for the animals they tested on first, which apparently occurs very rarely. So, what is Oculomucocuaneous Syndrome? He left it at “horrific,” so I had to find out.

No, it’s nothing like Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome other than the multi-system syndrome inducing part. It consists of keratocunjunctivitis sicca, which is dry eye syndrome. The Wikipedia article showed a picture of someone with blue sclera, but it’s actually just a dye they used, so it seemed more horrifying than it actually is. It also consists of various scarring and something called metaplasia, which is the transformation of one type of cell into another type of cell (WOW what), and the shrinking of a different part of the eye.

According to this PubMed article about the syndrome, 3 patients had significant vision lost and many also lost their ability to produce tears. So that is definitely horrifying, but Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome is just as if not more horrifying, so why wasn’t it immediately pulled off the market like Practolol?

If you’re interested in how scientific studies and drugs work, I highly recommend grabbing a Ben Goldacre book from your local library. These books are very dense, but they’re an interesting read.

Have a great weekend!


Michelle Polacinski
Floxie, Director, and Producer of ‘Floxed’