Prescription drugs are not the subject I planned to write about when I started my blog. Wellness is, however, and this is my blog, so that is our subject for today.
My mom is in the hospital. She got sick over a month ago while visiting my sister in California. After several days in the hospital they decided she had gallstones and an inflamed gallbladder. Ordinarily removing the gallbladder is a fairly minor procedure, but Mom has atrial fibrillation and leaky heart valves and they were reluctant. As a temporary fix they inserted tubing and she was released to transition care with a liver catheter. After a few days she went back to my sister’s home to get her strength back. Later it was decided surgery could be better handled with her own team of doctors in Minnesota. Wednesday she flew home and went in the hospital to get the catheter and gallbladder removed.
Yesterday we were told surgery would not be an option. I decided to contact an aromatherapist friend and see if she had any thoughts about what might be helpful for gallstones and her gallbladder. My friend asked about what medications my mom was on, because she didn’t want to use any essential oils that could interfere with something she was already taking.
Mom is 88 and has several significant health issues, and therefore she’s on a regular smorgasbord of prescription medications. Blood thinners for the heart, high blood pressure, heart burn, kidney disease, all kinds of things to counter act the high blood pressure medication, and cholesterol lowering statins. Every time they prescribe something new, it seems another issue pops up, causing even more prescriptions with even more side effects. I didn’t have a list, so we were just chatting about her various conditions, and I remembered she had trouble with gout in the past. My friend’s husband did as well, so we discussed the fact that allopurinol has many side effects, and because Mom isn’t having gout trouble at the moment, she shouldn’t need to be on it.
I decided to call the hospital and speak to her nurse about getting her off the gout medication. I did not expect the response I got. The nurse said the hospital never takes patients off their medications. They need to go back to their primary physician after they are released, and ask them about taking them off. Really? I asked if someone comes in with a condition, and they are on a medication that is known to make it worse, they will leave the patient on it until they are released and see their regular physician? The nurse sounded a little apologetic and said well, if it was really life-threatening, they might consider taking them off of it. We left it that she would make a note of my request for the doctor, but she didn’t think they would make the change.
So here we are, 2017, and with all the technology we have for so many wonderful things, wouldn’t you think someone could come up with a computer program to input all the prescription drugs a patient is on to see if they could be causing a serious condition? Why isn’t this one of the first things they look at?
I find this so frustrating. My dad was given a drug that basically fried his lungs, and caused him to be on oxygen at the end of his life. Several times I took him in to the ER for breathing problems, and each time they pumped him full of steroids and sent him home, when all along a prescription was causing making him sicker. After the hospital told us what happened and about the rare side effect that caused his problem, I researched what I could and found that if a patient had been a smoker, this was more likely to happen.
I’ve also read about all the side effects from long term cholesterol-lowering statins, and have tried to get Mom off of that one. It appears once you are on a drug, you will stay on it. Whatever happened to do no harm and risk vs. benefits?
I share this in case you have a loved one in a similar situation. Why isn’t the medical field doing more to get people off of drugs that could be making them sicker. Should pharmacists be playing a bigger role in patients that are hospitalized? When your gut tells you something isn’t right, demand answers. Ask when you are put on a prescription drug when you can stop taking it.