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Drug testing

October 29, 2016 Leave a comment

SOAP BOX ALERT! I am about to climb up and expound on the importance of knowing what you are taking (prescription and over-the-counter) and how they interact. Hyperbole aside, this is life and death information.

Years ago, my father had what appeared to be a seizure whilst in church. He was rushed to the hospital. I flew down and was there in time for the neurologist and his entourage to appear. The doctor proceeded to pontificate on how “the overweight elderly man” had “obviously an epileptic fit”. This was before having ever spoken to my father. The doctor then prescribed a heavy duty anti-seizure drug. I held the bag of drugs my father already took (he had heart issues, COPD, and asthma) and asked if the doctor could look to see if the new drug would be ok to take with the current regime. The doctor glanced in the bag (did not remove anything or look at any label) and said it would be fine.

Being a medical librarian, I knew there were many potential issues with drug interactions. Being a thinking human, I was concerned about a doctor doing no testing, no speaking with the patient, and determining the patient had a severe disease.

I asked my father to hold on taking anything until I could get back to my library and look into it. Thankfully he did not take the medicine. Thankfully because the new drug had a warning that taking X [his heart medicine] ‘may result in death’. I got my father into see another neurologist who tested and reviewed and found that my father had fainted (note the COPD, Asthma). My dad never had another problem with fainting and never had a seizure.

This is an extreme story, I know. Most doctors are not like this one. Most are caring and listening and concerned. But they are still human. So are you. Doctors ask what you are taking before they prescribe anything. Do you tell them of your vitamins? Supplements? Do you mention you are taking ibuprofen almost daily due to arthritis? You should.

Examples:

Recently I had to go to the emergency room due to extreme back pain. I could not find any position that gave me relief. I dutifully recited the list of medication and supplements I take. I also noted allergies and that one of my prescription drugs prevented me from taking any NSAID (could destroy my kidneys).  The PA (Physician’s Assistant) came in and spoke with me. He very appropriately did many tests and the conclusion was “back spasm of unknown origin”. He prescribed medications. I reminded that I could not take NSAIDs. I left with the prescriptions and went to the pharmacy. After filling the prescriptions and before taking any, I read the pharmacy provided inserts. One of the drugs prescribed was a NSAID.

So SOAP BOX, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to check your medications. Report EVERYTHING you are taking to your doctor and pharmacist. Read the documentation that comes with the medications. Not only do vitamins and supplements as well as other drugs have negative interactions with one another but some foods can interfere. For example, Grapefruit has several negative (up to and including death) reactions with various medications, especially heart medications.

Here are some excellent resources for you:

And my very favorite consumer health information source EVER:

MedlinePlus – information on drugs, supplements, and links to comprehensive information on various diseases, conditions, etc. Geared towards consumer.

Finally, there are resources for you to consult to get a speaker for your group or library.  The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has regional offices that offer training classes and has several outreach programs designed for consumers. I’ve been privileged to attend classes as a librarian as well as listen to a speaker at a disease support group. And they are FREE. Yep. FREE. Find your regional office and contact them to come talk to your group about how to find good medical information on the internet. Or how to find drug information. Or …well, go talk to them!

And please, I beg you, TELL your doctor and pharmacist about all medications and supplements you take. READ the inserts your pharmacy provides. And question. This is your life.

/SOAP BOX