Living off the NHS

As if my angioplasty wasn’t enough of a drain on the already stretched NHS finances I’ve been on a drug regimen since which I’m sure isn’t exactly low cost. I’m down to four medicines now, two each morning and evening, but started on six and then went up to seven. I thought it would be useful, maybe interesting, to list them and perhaps understand their role in keeping me healthy and prolonging my life.

Most of the technical information included below and shown in quotes is taken from http://www.drugs.com

1 Lansoprazole

‘Lansoprazole is a proton pump inhibitor. It decreases the amount of acid produced in the stomach. Lansoprazole is used to treat and prevent stomach and intestinal ulcers, erosive esophagitis (damage to the esophagus from stomach acid), and other conditions involving excessive stomach acid such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome’.

I started off taking one tablet very first thing each morning but when I reported a recurrent discomfort akin to heart burn I added an evening dose but went back to one after six months. At my 12 month review we, my GP and I, agreed to stop altogether but a mild heartburn returned so I went back to one tablet every other day. Now after my 24 month review we’ve stopped again and so far I seem to be doing OK.

The next tablets I take after breakfast.

2 aspirin

‘Aspirin is a salicylate. It works by reducing substances in the body that cause pain, fever, and inflammation. Aspirin is used to treat pain, and reduce fever or inflammation. It is sometimes used to treat or prevent heart attacks, strokes, and chest pain (angina)’.

This is probably the one medicine which is not bankrupting the NHS!

3 Clopidogrel

‘Clopidogrel is used to lower the risk of having a stroke, blood clot, or serious heart problem after a heart attack, severe chest pain (angina) or circulation problems’.

The plan was to take Clopidogrel for just 12 months and that’s what I did.

4 Amlodipine

‘Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker that dilates (widens) blood vessels and improves blood flow. Amlodipine is used to treat chest pain (angina) and other conditions caused by coronary artery disease. Amlodipine is also used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). Lowering blood pressure may lower the risk of a stroke or heart attack’.

As long as it does what it says on the can I’ll keep taking the tablets!

5 Bisoprolol

‘Bisoprolol is a beta-blocker that affects the heart and circulation (blood flow through arteries and veins). Bisoprolol is used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure)’.

Bisoprolol was not a part of the initial prescription but was added at a low level just afterwards. The dose was doubled when my blood pressure increased a month or so later. Since then by blood pressure has been in a good place, generally 120/60, but my GP felt that my heart rate, in the mid 40s, was too low. At my 24 month review we’ve agreed to stop this medicine and so far so good: blood pressure is unchanged and heart rate is now over 50. There should also be one benefit: no more stabbing muscle pains in the night!

The next tablets I take just before going to bed.

6 Ramipril

‘Ramipril is an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor. Ramipril is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) or congestive heart failure, and to improve survival after a heart attack’.

Please refer to the comment under Amlodipine.

7 Atorvastatin

‘Atorvastatin belongs to a group of drugs called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors or ‘statins’. Atorvastatin is used together with diet to lower blood levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL), to increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL), and to lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)’.

There’s a bit of a story here. A few years ago my GP recommend that I start taking a statin because I had high cholesterol and that significantly raised my risk of having a heart attack. I declined and we know what happened next. The only reason that my right coronary artery was blocked and needed a stent was the high my high cholesterol level. That’s why I’m perfectly happy to take such drugs now and would not take the earlier decision in the way that I did again.

As it says in the blurb above ‘together with diet’. I have dramatically reduced my intake of saturated fat which largely means no cheese, no fish & chips and no bacon butties. The net result is that all my cholesterol and triglyceride levels are now good. It also means that I’ve lost 5kg (down from 70kg) which is probably also good news.

There’s one more and that’s my GTN spray which I’ve so far not had to use. This is what the NHS web-site says about it:

Glyceryl trinitrate, or GTN, is a type of medicine called a nitrate. It is used to treat angina (chest pain). It can help stop chest pain if an angina attack has already started. It can also help to prevent them from starting.

Fortunately I’ve never had to use it

At my 24 month review I did tell my GP that although I generally feel pretty good there are days when I just feel that my body is responding to too many pharmaceuticals. I can’t say why, it’s just a feeling. We have now got down to just four and so far that feels more comfortable. I just hope that the accountants at the NHS are felling the benefit too.

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