A Letter to Dr. Oz

This is a copy of a letter a friend wrote to Dr. Oz.  I know three people who have had terrible reactions to statin drugs just as she described.  Have you had an experience like this with doctors not listening to your complaints, and then you later figure it out on your own?  Any comments you would like to add I will forward to her. 
I have been an RN for 37 years, worked in pediatrics, adults, hospitals and mostly home care. I used to be unsure of myself when I noticed in the early 90’s that it seemed that insurances started deciding our care. Well the proliferation of meds in the 90’s has led to many unsure side effects now in the teens of this decade. Every pt. I see, has at least 10-15 meds. My concern now is the in…effecient way communication with doctors and specialists take place. I never see physicians look at meds and really think about what they are doing to patients. Just more meds are ordered. My husband had polio at 9 mos. old. He is now 63. He had bypass surgery 16 yrs ago, has been on a statin among other meds, over the past decade… for the past 3 1/2 yrs we have consulted his primary doc, specialists… for symptoms that began increasing and became quite debilitating. Very hot burning feeling under his skin from the chest up intolerance to brightness, very cold feet and vibrating in extremities. We have other side effects he has had to other meds, but I want to emphasize this particular situation. We saw a neurologist also, other meds were added to try to change the way his brain was perceiving his nerve endings, as he was diagnosed with autonomic nervous system disorder. He finally became so disgusted when he became more light headed, stumbley, and still had the initial problems. He went off all his meds, including the ones for cardiac. Within 10 days he was better, we resumed the meds after 3 weeks and 5 days later you could see the symptoms come back more and more hour by hour. I pulled out the statin… in 4 days gradually all the symptoms went away. We lost almost 4 yrs in our relationship with the stress this caused, the loss of work, and what really irritates me to no end…. no medical professional seems to care…. Patients should not be asked, do you have and allergies to meds, but DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR SIDE EFFECTS TO MEDS? Even when pts. bring in their list of meds…. they are never looked at after they are put in the computer. Please help the public on this matter, I would love to talk to your medical staff regarding this issue.See More

8 thoughts on “A Letter to Dr. Oz

  1. Fortunately I haven’t had an experience like that. I attribute it to my being very pro-active with my health care. I ask a lot of questions, plus do a lot of research, especially when it comes to mediation.

    I’m not very trusting of the Pharmaceutical Industry. It’s powerful and has our doctors, insurance companies and politicians in its back pocket.

    Many doctors prescribe medications without even knowing the side-effects because medication is a one-size-fits-all whereas patients are not and neither are their illnesses. For that reason, people need to research on their own to make sure that the benefits of the medication out-weigh the side-effects or the cons.

    I also look into natural remedies. There are times when a medication is absolutely necessary; however, there are natural methods out there which can help, so I look to see if one of those can possibly help before leaping to a prescription right away.

  2. I was really “forced” to take a statin drug and took it for a few years. I developed the muscle pain but push through it and then I developed a rash. At this point I took myself off the drug. Then a few years later went to a new doctor and my cholesterol was very high so he put me on niacin and I had a terrible reaction to it. Neuropathy that was very painful.

    I do think the patient should not be intimidated into taking a medicine they do not wish to have in their bodies.


    • I agree Jo! But some people have that “whatever the doctor says” attitude and that’s bad. I know my Mom would never question her doctor about anything.

  3. Mine wasn’t with a drug, although they wanted to prescribe drugs. When I was younger, I used to pass out a lot. Occasionally as a child and increasing with frequency as I became a teen. The first time it happened in front of medical personnel, I had been NPO for an endoscopy and passed out after a bad IV stick. I was told I had had a seizure, and every subsequent loss of consciousness was considered part of my so called “seizure disorder”. They never found any EEG evidence of a seizure disorder, but I did pass out and I did get stiff (with some jerking sometimes) when I lost consciousness. I kept mentioning that all the times I had passed out, I had either been fasting and then had a bad stimulus (pain, e.g. the IV stick) or had not eaten for a while and then recently had something very sugary (ah the diet of a 16 year old girl). This was ignored. Instead, seizure meds were pushed on me and I was told I would not be able to drive unless I went on the meds or had 6 months “seizure” free.

    MANY non driving, non-seizure drug taking years later, I discovered I had hypoglycemia. And that when some people pass out, they go stiff. See, from 18 to 25, I worked as an inpatient unit secretary/clerk. The nurses at my first unit secretary job thought I was acting funny one night and decided they should check my blood sugar. Wow, 60 something. Peanut butter crackers and gingerale stat! I have since discovered that my aunts are all hypoglycemic and have had a glucose tolerance test. The blood sugar isn’t the only factor, I am a “vagaler” too, so things like bad needle sticks and bad intestinal pain can send me into a vasovagal episode. A long ugly sweaty road to unconsciousness.

    I’ve often reflected on how easy it would have been to listen to me as a teen, telling the doctors exactly the information they needed to solve a at least one part of the puzzle. And how dismissive, arrogant, rigid, and closed minded they must have been to ignore all the times I mentioned this very relevant piece of history, i.e., my food intake around the “seizures”. This experience has informed a good deal of how I interact with doctors as an adult. I just don’t assume that they know best. I’m slowly getting better at finding ways to communicate with them, to redirect them. The good ones are open to it. The bad ones, well, they aren’t my doctors for long.

  4. I’m very lucky, my doctors do look at my medication list. They discuss side effects with me. I’ve had high triglycerides for many years, my doctor told me that doctors often prescribe statin drugs for this, but she didn’t want to add that to my medications. We keep a close eye on it, and realize that my normal levels are a bit high…but the rest of my cholesterol is normal…so not as worrisome.

    Every doctor I have, except maybe one, is diligent about looking at my medications, and trying not to add anything that isn’t necessary.

    This wasn’t always the case. At one point I was put on a psychiatric drug that I reacted very negatively to, come to find out it should not have been prescribed in conjunction with another drug I was taking. Needless to say I’m not seeing that doctor any longer.
    Once, a doctor put me on a high dose of a medication, and did not tell me that at high dosages this drug would interfere with my birth control pills. After being on it for 3 months my pharmacist asked if I was aware of this. I was shocked…and at the time I was late. Luckily, it turned out to be a false alarm, but this could have been a very traumatic experience. I talked to the doctor and he had no idea the drug he prescribed could cause this reaction. He got worried and asked ME, do you think this could interfere with another kind of birth control..I think it was Depo Provera. I was shocked, and told him I didn’t know but he better find out and get in touch with any other women who may be affected.

    I have other stories, but those two I remember vividly.

    I said at the beginning that I’m lucky about my doctors, but really I’m not. I worked hard to find a good team of physicians who really care, will listen, and will not just prescribe a drug at the first mention of a problem. That doesn’t mean I’m not on a few medications, but I have quite a few chronic illnesses. However, my medication list has been reduced, thanks to my team of doctors now. I take more supplements, but less prescription medications. (many of the medications I’m on now are on an “as needed” basis)

    I do think many, many doctors (I’d venture to say most) are as described in the letter, but I also think it is partially the patient’s responsibility to make sure their doctor is listening. Also, when ever I’m prescribed a new medication I look it up to see if any of my current medications would react to it. I look up the inactive ingredients to ensure I do not have a reaction to them.

    In this day of insurance driven medicine in this country, we have to be diligent and make sure our doctors are really taking care of us, and not simply treating our symptoms of the moment (meaning what we went in to see them about this time), and ignoring everything else about us. We should never feel we are rushed in a doctor’s office. We should however, respect their time too., so be prepared with a list of questions, a list of your medications, and a list of medications you have problems with.

    I also realize many people have to see certain doctors because of their location or insurance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stick up for yourself. Be diligent and proactive about your health care, no matter who you have to see.

    (both of the examples I gave you above happened when I was living in California and we had to see certain doctors because of our insurance. This insurance company has their own hospitals, and clinics. I had to go to those places, and I was not as sure of myself as I am now. I trusted my doctors (I’d had good experiences in the past so I wasn’t as jaded.) This experience, made me realize, no one knows my body like I do, therefore I must be the best advocate for myself as I can be.

    (sorry this so long…but one more thing)
    I do feel it’s deplorable that patients who do not have the faculties to speak up for themselves, or understand what is going on, are not assigned an advocate to help them. However, even when I’ve heard of this happening, the advocate is often not looking out for the patient, they are looking out for the insurance company or the hospital…the bottom dollar.

    (I really had no idea I was going to get on a tangent. Sorry about the length, I hope you don’t mind.)

  5. That’s interesting. I’ve often found that many doctors want to over-prescribe. And without any thought to it, most of the time. “Here take this”, is the attitude.

    Part of this problem is how rushed they are (due in large part to HMO’s and government involvement that requires them to see far too many patients in one day). Instead of taking the time to educate patients, many just hand you a script.

    My experience with statins, goes like this…
    I gained a lot of weight having my first 2 kids 11 months apart. And afterwards my cholesterol and triglycerides were very high. Every doctor I saw during that time tried HARD to push me onto statins. I was prescribed them many times and in high doses. I told them all the same thing, “Yes I realize my numbers are bad, but doesn’t it make sense to at least TRY to loose weight first?” All of them said, “No”. I called and spoke with two pharmacists about my situation, one gave me the stereotypical “I can’t give you advice” routine. And the other talked to me at length. He said, that while he couldn’t tell me what to do, if it were HIM, he would feel like I did – that I should take the time to try to fix it on my own without medication because they do have side effects.

    Every doctor disagreed with me, some acted like bullies. All told me point blank that I *had* to take these drugs, and that (and I’m quoting here) “even if you do bring it down some, you’ll never be able to get numbers like that into a normal range without medication.”

    Well, guess what? I did. I didn’t take any statins, and my last bloodwork results showed normal cholesterol and normal triglycerides and it was bloodwork that was accidentally drawn NON-fasting!

    I would hate to think how many prescriptions I would be on right now, if I took everything a doctor told me I needed. I think patients need to educate themselves as much as possible, and always be on the look-out for their own best interests.

    • Deb, Thanks for the reply on your experience. A close friend of mine started taking a statin (I won’t mention the name of the drug, but it is one of the most popular ones) After she started the drug within a short time she experienced increased fatigue and body aches. (She already has an autoimmune disease that caused these symptoms already). She reported these side effects to her doctor who told her she most likely had Chronic Fatigue Syndrom, and she spent more money going to a specialist for that. After some research, we both discovered that the statin drug could have caused her increased fatigue. She went off the drug, and within days she felt better. I shudder to think of the thousands and thouands of people taking this drug and have side effects that their doctor can’t explain.

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