May 06 2014

Hi fellow Listservians,

I had no plan on what to write if I ‘won’, so I’ll revert to what I know best – drugs – the medicinal type. I’m a 26 year old intern pharmacist from NSW, Australia and I thought I’d list a few interesting things, common misconceptions and general things to know about medicines.

**Disclaimer – I’m still learning, don’t just take my word for the following (or the news, or anything); look into things for yourself, and become informed. The world will be a better place for it!

1. Are you one of those people (I’m guilty) that takes pain killers only when you can’t bear the pain any longer? It turns out that this is not ideal. ‘Central sensitisation’ is when you experience (chronic) pain above a critical rate over time, leading to your perception of the pain increasing i.e. the longer you leave the pain – the more sensitive you become to it – so treat it early and regularly if required!

2. Medications come from many sources, especially natural ones. A new diabetes drug, exenetide is derived from saliva of a lizard. Penicillin comes from Penicillium fungus; digoxin is extracted from the foxglove plant, morphine from opium etc.

3. The difference between paracetamol/acetaminophen (brand – Panadol) and ibuprofen (brand Nurofen). Paracetamol an analgesic (kills pain) that also reduces fever, is effective if taken regularly, however, if overused can damage the liver. Ibuprofen an anti-inflammatory - reduces inflammation, thereby reducing pain – can hurt the stomach if not taken with food.

4. Generics – these are the cheaper options offered to you at the pharmacy. These products must by law contain EXACTLY the same active ingredient (drug) and be as effective as the original medication. The only difference is that they may have different non-active ingredients like colourings etc. Often these are made by the same company as the original brand – it’s all about creating the competition.

5. Marketing – don’t let the drug companies fool you with ‘Migraine’, or ‘Period Pain’ tablets. Look at the active ingredient and you will probably find they all contain the same drug in the same strength, the only difference being the price.

6. Ever wondered why pharmacists preach that you must take the full course of antibiotics, even if you feel better? It’s to do with survival of the fittest, if you take an antibiotic for half the course, you’ll kill the weaker bacteria. But the stronger bacteria that can deal with the drug will survive and this will become the norm. This cycle perpetuates, leading to resistance to an antibiotic and is how we get super bugs like Staph (MRSA) that don’t respond well to treatment. Taking the full course aims to eliminate all of the bacteria.

7. Antibiotics and alcohol – whilst it’s not advisable to drink much when you are sick, there is only one antibiotic with which you should not drink alcohol as it will make you violently ill. It is called metronidazole.

8. The oral contraceptive pill (OCP). ‘Skipping’ your menstrual cycle by not taking the inactive tablets in the pack does you no harm, contrary to popular belief. ‘Traditional use of the OCP with 21 hormone pills and 7 placebo pills, allowing for a bleed, was designed to satisfy social & religious pressures of the 1950's and mimic a woman's natural menstrual cycle. A withdrawal bleed has no physiological basis.’ – From Menstrual Suppression (Family Planning NSW website).

9. Airing a wound out to dry is a thing of the past – Google moist wound healing, much more beneficial.

Have a lovely day.

A random P.S - Don’t pity a shelter animal, adopt one!

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