A Tough Pill to Swallow
The middle-aged man was experiencing chest pain, or angina, on exertion, so his doctor prescribed him with a nitroglycerin patch to help alleviate the symptom. The medicine in the patch would dilate the coronary arteries and allow freer blood flow.
After a few weeks, at a follow up appointment, the doctor asked the patient whether his chest pain had improved.
"Not really," the man said.
"Did you use the patches?" the doctor asked.
"Well, I quit taking them after a week." his patient responded. "They made me violently sick to my stomach, and I was dizzy all the time. I thought I was dying."
"Strange," the doctor said, with some degree of concern. "I have never had that probem with the patches before. The side effect I hear about most often is a headache. Were you taking them as prescribed?"
"Absolutely," the patient said firmly. "And not only did they make me sick, I was having a very difficult time swallowing them."
When I read that, I nearly fell out of my chair, but it's in the chapter "It could happen to you" which really made me think. The next section, describes Martha and her knee replacement. This really hit home, as my husband will be having the same surgery soon.
I was expecting, when I recevied this book to review, a mere informational book about all the medicines that do more harm than good, but quickly realized it's much more than that.
When I read about Martha, and how her VERY routine surgery eventually ended in her death, it REALLY made me think about how easy it is to fall victim to simple things, like a MRSA infection, something that you should NOT find in hospitals, but you do. While we assume that a surgery room is completly sterile, anything not properly sterilized could introduce this deadly infection into your bloodstream.
Dr. Marcum gives us his top 10 deadliest classes of medications.
We assume and understand the risks of taking opioid medications (narcotics/pain killers) and know that they are easy to overdose on, and even easier to get hooked on. (His #1)
But do you realize just how deadly some other, most prescribed, medications are?
Here is the rest of his list:
3: Blood Thinnners
7: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen anyone???)
8: ADD/ADHD medications
9: Diabetes meds
#10 (really surprised me) Antidepressants.
Dr. Marcum lists 5 questions to improve patient literacy. I challange EVERYONE out there to ask these questions when you are prescribed a medication!!
- Why am I taking this medication?
- How and when do I take this medication?
- What are the side effects, especially the dangerous ones?
- When should I NOT take this medication?
- What should I do if I forget to take this medication?
Every time you're given a new medication, if you read the patient handout that comes with your prescription, you'll see something like "tell your doctor if you suffer from these conditions"
Why is this important, and how many of us REALLY do it? Well think about it... Let's say that you suffer from sleep apnea. Ok, so it's not bad...you snore at night, and sometimes there's a lag in your breathing. But what happens when your doctor prescribes you a medication that can slow your breathing (like a narcotic)? Well...you already have a lag in your breathing...add to that FURTHER depressed breathing... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you could die.
Let's not assume that it's just us... our unborn babies are just as much at risk, perhaps even more so.
Marcum points out what happened in Germany, with the medication thalidomide. It was used to battle the symptoms of morning sickness. What ended up happening (sure, you're not nauseaus anymore) was it affected the limbs and organs of more than 8 THOUSAND DEVELOPING BABIES.
Do you know what the TOP cause of acute liver failure is? I'll give you a hint...it's not Jack Daniels!! Nope..alcohol is not to blame, neither is hepatitis. It's acetaminophen. That's right. That medication you take pretty much every day, the one you give your kids for a bump on the head, the one that you've NEVER had a problem with... That one.
When I go into the ER with my husband or child for some bump, bruise, cut or fall, it seems that every time, I'm mistaken for a nurse. The last time I went in, when my (then) 12yr old hit his head at school and required stitches, the nurse came in and explained everything, in medical terms (vs the normal lay terms that one would use). When my husband asked her later about what it all meant, she told him that she assumed that I would explain it. She thought I was a nurse. I would assume this is because I do have a fairly vast medical knowledge, mostly because I am a sponge, and tend to retain pretty much everything, especially when it comes to the health of my family. So I know what medications my husband is on, how to pronounce them, what they're for, etc.
However, reading this book, I felt SO inadaquate, and unable to grasp everything that was being presented. I was so surprised at the information it gave... not ready to realize how often mistakes are made, how many people die, and just how bad a medication can be.
This book is NOT just for doctors, although, if I could, I'd give a copy to every one of our family's doctors. I'd HIGHLY recommend ANYONE who sees a doctor, get's a prescription, or who care's for someone else, read this book.