Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Is my doctor listening?
Doctors might not be listening to their patients as much as they should. A new study indicates that the issue is most problematic when it comes to patients reporting side effects to their doctors. The example the study authors used were statin medications - medications used to lower cholesterol. A lot of patients may not know this, but these medications can cause muscle pain, kidney failure and liver problems. These side effects are not common, but they do happen, so the study authors decided statins would provide a good test subject.
In a survey, published in Drug Safety, many of the 650 patients who were taking statin medications and having side effects said their physician either denied or didn't commit one way or another to the relationship between the drug and the side effect. Again, these were side effects that are well known among doctors, but around a third said there was no connection. 39 percent said a connection was possible and 29 percent "neither endorsed not dismissed" the possibility of a link.
Some of the strategies to deal with this problem include keeping a diary of side effects to better illustrate the relationship between medications and reactions. Of course, as difficult as it may be, read the package inserts and ask your pharmacist, nurse and doctor about possible side effects. If your health care team still dismisses your concerns, it might be time to find a new team.
While the point of this study wasn't to determine why doctors aren't listening as much as they should, the authors did draw some conclusions. They think, for example, the pharmaceutical industry, which helps doctors with drug education, is more interested in discussing the benefits of a drug while adverse effects are less likely to be represented. Another theory is that doctors are simply inundated with side effect information on a rapidly expanding medication list, and are unable to keep up with all of them. It was also suggested some doctors are simply too arrogant to listen to their patients and too pressed for time to pay attention. What do you think the problem might be and how do you get your doctor to listen?
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