Sensible advice when taking new drugs

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Why don’t they tell us?

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, has one of the most renowned medical research establishments in the cancer field.

So when they advise on how to take new drugs – I listen.


And their latest research makes a lot of sense;  they advise when you begin a new medication, the key to avoiding side effects is to take the lowest possible dosage that still gives you the benefit you need — whether that intended benefit is relieving arthritis pain, reducing cholesterol levels, or maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar to prevent the long-term complications of diabetes.

Unfortunately, there is frequently no “one size fits all” dosage, because people vary in their responses to drugs.  So when your doctor says ‘take X pills a day’, they could be advising a dose for someone larger or smaller than you.

Johns Hopkins says “the dosage must be tailored to you and your specific medical needs. The goal is to identify the minimum effective dosage of the drug: one that provides sufficient benefit with minimum side effects and at the lowest cost. On the other hand, the maximum useful dosage is the point beyond which increasing the dosage offers no additional benefit and, potentially, increases the risk of side effects”.

As a rough analogy, consider the process you go through to salt your food. You first sprinkle a bit on, but you can’t quite taste the salt. So you sprinkle a little more, and now it tastes just right — akin to the minimum effective dosage. Add a little more and the food will taste distinctly salty but remain edible, akin to the maximum useful dosage. Finally, give the shaker a few more shakes and the food will be too salty for eating. Now you are experiencing a side effect from too much salt: unpleasant-tasting food.

Finding the minimum effective dosage of a drug depends a lot on your doctor’s experience, skill, and judgment. You may also have to undergo tests to determine whether the drug is working as expected. For example, drugs for high blood pressure take time to exert their maximal effect. Doctors commonly start at a low dosage and gradually increase it until they see an adequate treatment response. This, of course, means you will have to undergo periodic blood pressure measurements.

This sounds eminently sensible to me – and advice that might have saved me from nasty side effects with drugs I have taken previously.

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One thought on “Sensible advice when taking new drugs

  1. Irene April 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm Reply

    Well said Verite. We need to be treated as individuals with our own specific and unique needs – one size does not fit all!!
    Thanks for all your hard work in keeping us updated – much appreciated!!

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