These are the thoughts of a cantankerous ol' gynecologist who remembers when things were a little different. I try to find a little humor in my life and the people I meet along the way. Come meet the characters in my world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Did You Read the Package Insert?

Why Create Extra Trouble?

All medications come with information from the manufacturer.  This is called a “package insert”.  It includes information about the medication, what it is used for, when you should not take it, dosages, what medicines it might interact with and an extremely long list of side effects.  They are usually divided into the severe and the common ones.

I usually advise people NOT to read the side effect list unless they are having a problem with the medication.  Some people tend to get worried when they read the possible problems.  If you are this type of person, please don’t read the insert. 

I have had patients who absolutely refused to take a medication after they read the papers that came with the medication.  They got scared by the list of possible side effects.  That list is required if even a small percentage of people got a particular symptom.  The symptom didn’t even need to be caused by the medication.  It could have been caused by what the medication was supposed to be treating, or by some food that the person ate, or any number of other things.  If it was reported during the trial for the medication, it goes on the list. 

Some medications cause you either to be sleepy or to have insomnia.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  Others cause either depression or anxiety.  Some cause either weight gain or weight loss.  I can do that without medication!

I just looked up my new heart medicine.  It can cause: heart failure, heart block, low heart rate, chest pain, painful breathing…..  The common reactions are: headache, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, insomnia, rash, and swollen feet and ankles.  I told you this is not a good idea. 

When I went for a consultation to the cardiologist, I told him about a reaction I had to a previous medication.  I took the medication for two weeks.  I had a nagging headache the whole time.  It stopped when some of my doctor friends convinced me to stop taking the pills.  He told me that he had never had a patient with that reaction to that particular medication.  I wanted to say “well, you have now, Buddy!”  He suggested that I retry the same pill at a lower dose.  I declined, because I really don’t like headaches.  I’m on a bunch of medications to help prevent them.  Why should I take one that causes one?

I didn’t read the insert until I had the headache.  For a week.  As it should be. 

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