“You’re not taking any medications?” asked the nurse.
“There’s nothing wrong with me. Why would I want to take pills if I don’t need them?”
“Count your blessings. Most people your age have a list of drugs they take.”
That was only four years ago at a routine checkup with my family physician. It seems like a lifetime. Sometimes I think that nurse cursed me!*
Not too long after that appointment I had my first appointment with a rheumatologist, which led to my first DMARD. Plaquenil is considered one of the milder RA drugs, and I was happy to feel so much better. An NSAID to reduce inflammation was prescribed along with the DMARD.
A third medication was prescribed for combatting Raynauds symptoms, and that winter I was able to build snowmen with my children – without losing circulation in my fingers and toes.
Spring came, and with the warmer weather I jumped at the chance to discontinued the Raynauds drug.
Then a new prescription, this time to stop headaches. Followed by a new med to prevent headaches in the first place. It didn’t work, so we tried a different one, increasing the dose until finally the headaches stopped.
I bought a pill box.
Another DMARD added. Plus a med to ward of side effects.
Another dose increase.
When I still flared on triple therapy, a biologic was next in line. And finally I felt reasonably well.
According to my rheumatologist, this is too many drugs. I agree, so was ecstatic when she said that we’d work on – one at a time – whittling it down to a more reasonable number.
I got to stop all the big yellow pills (sulfasalazine), but after about six weeks it became apparent that wasn’t a good idea. Unfortunately, this was about the time we left for vacation and I missed out on what would have been some terrific hikes. Walking from the hotel to the car was a major undertaking; trekking up and down canyons would have been impossible. After resuming the ssz, it took another two months to start feeling better again - but I never made it back as great as I had been.
Still trying to reduce the meds, seven weeks ago I stopped the hydroxychloroquine. For the most part I’ve been really happy with my rheumatologist, but this was not one of her better ideas.
Does it sound like whining if I yell, Why is this happening?! A biologic plus mtx should be enough. I thought for sure that I’d get to take fewer drugs, and was really looking forward to drastically reducing the time I spend swallowing pills (and reducing the amount of money I spend at the pharmacy).
If I ever get back to feeling the way I did last February, I’ll have a new motto:
If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
Bonus points to anyone who understands the pictures :)
*I also think she was wrong. Most people don’t even go to the doctor, let along have a list of drugs they take. Perhaps she should have said something along the lines of, “Most people we see are here for follow-up of chronic conditions, so I’m not used to seeing people who are healthy.”