Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pills, Pills and More Pills: A Follow-up

Seems as if my last post on too many pills struck a nerve.

According to some of the feedback that I received, I am way out of my league with my complaints about my pill count. Some of us patients top 85 pills a day.

Here is an important email that I received from one of the readers of my blog who makes some good points that I thought I should share.

A few years ago I had to take about double the number of pills I take now.  I simply adopted the view that for every new medication I was asked to take, I asked the doctor to find two that I really didn't need.  The strategy seems to be working.

I developed this strategy after contemplating something my mother went through years ago.  She was taken to the emergency ward of a local hospital.  She was very sick from a number of things and death was imminent. Her organs started to fail.  It was decided that they would keep her pain under control but stop all other medications and allow life and death to take their course.

Once they stopped ALL of her vast amounts of medications (once on a med she never got off it) and she immediately began to recover.  In fact, she lived for 12 more years after that incident.

Of course you are a doctor, but for the rest of us I would suggest that twice a year (or more often if required) each of us present a full list of our meds to each doctor that treats us, with a view to stopping all meds that are no longer needed for one reason or another.  Doctors seldom have a list of the meds they have prescribed to us over the years and some doctors don't bother, of their own initiative, to even review those meds, let alone reviewing all of the meds we are taking in order to take out meds that are no longer necessary.

These are important lessons here. 

With today's larger integrated healthcare delivery systems for outpatient and inpatient services and the possibility of a shared electronic medical records, it should be easier to keep the medication records up to date, but as a dear friend can testify when his wife recently came home from hospital on two nearly identical meds (the second one was completely unneeded and a potential problem), it is still too often the case that care is not co-ordinated and patients are taking drugs  that at best they don't need, and at worst, can be dangerous.

That is why is important to be our own well informed advocates.

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