The health headlines over the last few days have been all about the debacle created by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology when these cardiologists touted their new guidelines on statin use. We were invited by an editor at The New York Times to put drug treatment into perspective.
You will find our essay, “Do Your Homework,” in the Room for Debate section.
What is an ordinary person to do, if the experts can’t seem to make up their minds? First, exercise a prudent degree of skepticism. If you are uncertain of the medication, discuss other ways to treat the condition. Your doctor may not be aware that there even is a controversy. Patients were often out in front of their doctors when it came to the dangers of hormone replacement therapy, for example. That’s because women were worried about the possibility of breast cancer and HRT even as they were being reassured that estrogen and progestin would prevent heart attacks.
In our short essay for The New York Times we advocate that patients find out as much as they can about the medicines their doctors prescribe. This can be done online at sites like ours, or through ConsumerReports Best Buy Drugs or at DailyMed, where the official prescribing information for a majority of prescription drugs is published. The pharmacist is a valuable but underused information resource who may be able to give you a different perspective on the drugs you take, though pharmacists are usually careful not to contradict doctors directly.
If you experience unanticipated side effects from a medication, you can report them to the FDA at MedWatch. You may be able to find out if others have had similar problems by searching this site. Patient reports are how we discovered the problems with the generic antidepressant Budeprion XL 300 (bupropion). The reports of uncontrollable itch associated with Zyrtec (cetirizine) withdrawal is another example of patients helping each other. And this site has become a beacon for for a variety of statin side effect stories, including a possible relationship between statins and ALS.
If you are worried about drug interactions, visit MediGuard.org.
The one person who has the biggest stake in your reaction to a medication is you. And that’s why you will be the one who benefits most from becoming an e-patient: engaged, empowered and enlightened.