Costs of dealing with drug side effects

Don’t blame patients

Various pills

Various pills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


All too often today, you go to the doctor for a medical problem.

  • A rushed appointment leaves you frustrated.
  • You haven’t been able to voice half of your problems
  • But, like a child, you leave clutching a prescription for pills that are supposed to make you better
  • But somehow you are not sure.

No wonder so many patients don’t bother to take the prescription to the chemist.  Or even worse, collect the prescription but then never bother to take the expensive drugs.   In their mind they know that pills are not the solution to their medical problem, but aren’t able to take this further because doctors are using pills as a way of keeping us quiet.

So often handing out a prescription, and then ‘they’ won’t ask time-consuming questions,  seems to be today’s answer to a whole range of medical problems.  With appointments getting shorter and shorter, patients are already seeing the end result of the Health and Social Care Bill, with cuts everywhere including time spent with patients.  Solution seems to be prescribe more pills so we walk around in a zombie state, not alive enough to ask too many questions.

Or what is worse, when you do take the pills you are suddenly faced with horrendous side effects of whatever drug you have been prescribed.  Now you find you are regarded with suspicion – doctors don’t like patients who produce unfavourable reactions to drugs, because they have no idea how to deal with these.
LaLa’s Health Bill shows he has no idea how to run a health service, and doesn’t seem to realise that his Bill’s requirements to save money means that doctors will turn to prescribing pills, as the time-saving option, rather than taking time to talk through what is the cause of a patient’s problems.
It’s the same across the Atlantic
Latest information issued by Reuters Health in the States should worry LaLa.  He probably has no idea of the consequences of farming out treatment to a hodge podge of providers, but one thing that should have occured to him is that these medics, not knowing their patients, are more than likely to prescribe a drug as a solution.   And that is going to cost more money.
Painful rashes, nausea, vomitting  and other drug-related side effects of newer drugs will jack up treatment costs.
Skin rashes are another consequence, and Reuters says “the average cost of treating each cancer patient who came into a dermatology clinic with skin, hair and nail complaints was almost $2,000.  That included expenses related to doctors’ appointments, dermatology medications and lab tests”.
What happens here

As a patient who uses private treatment when I can afford it, but has to make do with NHS for most care, appointments take two different courses:

Dr. NHS  hardly looks up from their computer screen to ask what’s wrong.  I tell by talking to their bent head.   Am asked one or two basic questions.  Then doctor returns thankfully to their screen and says “take these pills three times a day”.  End of ten minute consultation.
Dr. Private  asks  what they can help with, and listens carefully.  Then asks a range of questions to my face, carefully watching whilst I answer, and prompting responses to which they ask more questions.  Then they suggest possible solutions, which may very well cover life-style changes:  cut down on certain foods;  take more exercise;  have I tried xxxxxxxx?  There is a discussion about consequences of different solutions, until after 20 – 30 minutes I go away with a plan of action – and very seldom any more pills to take.
Ellie-next-door went to see her Dr. NHS.   He said she had a temperature, and was about to prescribe   anti-biotics for her.  “Hold hard” said Ellie.  “Surely I read that these are losing their effectiveness because we are taking too many?  Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed until my temperature goes down?”   Ellie did just that – result is her doctor isn’t speaking to her, but within three days she was up and running;  no temperature and NO horrid side effects from anti-biotics.
After starting on a new drug, my blood pressure reading went through the roof. My Dr. NHS put me on Amlodipine.  BP went down – thankfully – and I was just told to continue taking drug.  Instead, I have stopped taking the pills;  my BP is slightly above what it should be, but instead of talking about alternatives such as exercise, food etc. which is bringing the figure down, my doctor is cross because I am doing what I can to reduce BP by sensible means on my own.
Dr. Max Pemberton called us a ‘nation of pill poppers’ in the Daily Telegraph.  Then told a chilling story of his first ward round as a junior doctor.
“At nearly every patient’s bed, the Consultant took out his pen and…..  crossed off the medication they had been taking prior to admission.  I stood there and thought he must be mad………  But I came to realise that many of the tablets we dish out cause as many problems as they solve”.
Pemberton also mentioned an old lady whose life had changed (for the worse) after she went to her doctor to say she had trouble sleeping.  Side effects of the drug she was prescribed had eventually led her to have a serious fall, and she ended up in hospital.  This reminded me of Mother, who had had exactly the same problem, but when I suggested to the doctor that the sleeping pills were making her unsteady, causing three major falls, and should be withdrawn – he said this was taking away her rights as a patient.  Us kids changed her Temazepam to a similar-looking vitamin tablet – and no more falls.
The solution the Consultant gave to Pemberton’s old lady was a classic – and so sensible.  “If you can’t sleep at night, listen to the World Service.  It’s a lot safer”.

Drugs cause a vicious cycle – so if you are worried take your tablets off to your nearest Pharmacist.  Ask them what are consequences of taking each one,  and which ones you might do without.

No-one should become addicted or used to these drugs – keep them for when we really need them.

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