That said, I had an incident this year with my former doctor that really irritated me - and yes, I said FORMER doctor, as you will soon see why. Along with the cursory examination, routine blood work is done each year. The health system we go to uses MyChart online, which is really great - you can make routine appointments online, send messages to your doctor, and see your test results. So I was able to log in and see my blood work results a couple of days later, and I saw that for the fourth year in a row, my cholesterol levels were high...nothing horrible, but they were not in the normal range. And that didn't surprise me, because both of my parents, who are thin and exercise regularly, have high cholesterol and are on medication - obviously, it's a genetic thing for me.
But, here's where the story takes a turn. A day or so after I saw the test results, someone from his office called and told me that my doctor had prescribed Lipitor as a result of my blood tests because he did not believe my cholesterol could be controlled by diet or exercise. Which, OK - I can see that, considering I eat pretty decently and exercise regularly. However, none of this was discussed during the visit; it's not like my doctor looked at my previous test results and said "I see your cholesterol has been high in the past and if this year shows the same, I want to start you on medication for it" - nope, nothing. So the phone call kind of caught me off guard, especially when I realized that I would be taking this medicine for the rest of my life.
Without having had one discussion about it with my doctor.
This might have been a routine thing for him, but it was a little jarring for me...and without getting to speak with him about it, I did the next logical step: I Googled the medication.
I read about the side effects of Lipitor - and of immediate concern to me was muscle pain, because I didn't want to make running any harder than it already is for me. I also read about the dosage, which varies from 10mg to 80mg per day. Then I went back to MyChart and saw the prescription that he'd called in to my pharmacy. It surprised me to see 40mg - why such a high dosage? Why not start with a lower dosage and see if that works? So I emailed my doctor:
After digesting the phone call from your nurse on Monday morning regarding putting me on Lipitor for high cholesterol, I did a little research and am concerned about the side effects of the medicine. For that reason, I'd like to start at the lowest dosage possible, which looks to be 10 mg. I can see in MyChart that you've prescribed 40 mg - can you please change the prescription? I don't want to start another set of problems while trying to solve the cholesterol issue.
This was the response I got back - I'm assuming it was dictated or something, because of the typos:
I'll change the dose if you want, but....
Not everything that she read on the Internet is based on good science. He also have to keep in mind that the incidence of complications with statins is exceedingly low.
There is a large amount of evidence that shows that the higher the dose of statin the more cardioprotection that she will get.
You have a choice: Do want to significantly reduce your risk of a common occurrence (heart attack/stroke), or do you want to decrease you risk of a already low/rare occurrence (side effects to statins.)?
All I could think after reading his response was WHAT IN THE HELL??? When did this turn into a heart attack/stroke? Again, there had been zero discussion about cholesterol, heart attacks, or strokes during the visit - and suddenly, apparently, I'm Fred Sanford, about to croak:
Obviously I can see the humor in this, but truth be told, I was also pretty angry. What happened to the educated patient? Why are there brochures in the waiting rooms of medical offices, telling us to learn more about diseases and treatments, if we're not allowed to question anything? I vented about this at different times to several of my running buddies, and each one, upon hearing about my doctor's email response, said the same thing - "you need a new doctor" - and they were right. I emailed my original doctor one last time:
I would like to start with the 10mg dose, please.
And with that, I was done with him. He did call in that dosage, and I started taking the Lipitor (with no side effects, thankfully). I knew I needed to have blood work done again to see if the medicine was working, so I found another doctor, made an appointment with her, and explained what had transpired and asked her to order the next round of blood work, which I had about 10 days ago. As you can probably guess by the title of this post, the results were excellent - the Lipitor, at the lowest dosage, had done the job and my numbers were all drastically better.
Even though I lost my trust in a doctor who I'd previously liked, I'm glad I went this direction and questioned his authority. I have a feeling that we are an overmedicated society in general - yes, there is a time and a place for medicine, absolutely - but just because something might need addressing, it doesn't necessarily need the entire book thrown at it...sometimes just a page will do.