Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Things Patients Tell Us That Are Almost Never True, Part 1

“I need something stronger….”

It’s common sense that if a drug isn’t working, the doctor should prescribe a better drug. In fact, the usual reason a drug doesn’t work is that you have a problem a drug won’t solve. Mostly, when hotel guests make this statement, they’re taking an antibiotic for their bronchitis. A week or two has passed, and they’re still coughing. I have to explain that these illnesses last a week or two no matter what medicine you take. Similarly most “pinkeye” doesn’t respond to drops, and doctors still debate whether antibiotics help middle ear infections.     

“I’m allergic to….”

As I wrote on March 23, almost everyone who believes they’re allergic is wrong. Another large group claims that they’re allergic to a drug that upsets their stomach. In fact, this is not an allergy – meaning that it’s never fatal. This is important because you should never take a drug to which you are (genuinely) allergic. If a drug upsets your stomach but an alternative is more expensive or less effective, you might choose to feel sick for a while.

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