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Ask Dr. Gott 5/3
Drop unnecessary meds
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: You recently wrote a column about a gentleman who was taking 16 medications. My husband, who is 82, is taking 19.
    He has survived Hodgkin's lymphoma (1988), a five-way bypass surgery (1991), a stroke (1997) and two carotid-artery surgeries (1997 and 1998). He has type-2 diabetes as a result of his lymphoma chemotherapy. He is in kidney failure, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2005 and has myelodysplasia.
    He regularly sees an oncologist, endocrinologist, nephrologist, urologist and cardiologist. His medications include pain relievers, blood thinners, cholesterol reducers, calcium, vitamins, water pills and many more.
    I would like your opinion. We have insurance, which I am very thankful for. I respect his doctors and their opinions, as I do yours. I am worried, though, that he is overmedicated. I also am worried that if he stops any of these, it would be his end. He leads a fairly normal life other than sleeping a lot, but given the situation, I would expect this. He does not do much, cannot play golf and is no longer sexually active (even though he would like to be). It is just not possible for him to do the things he wants and enjoys the way he used to.
    DEAR READER: Your husband has several serious medical ailments for which he is taking various (and mostly appropriate) medications. In the list you provided, I do see two medications that I believe could be stopped safely. Valtrex is given to people with genital herpes as an outbreak preventive or treatment. Because your husband is not sexually active, there is little risk of him passing this condition on to you. You also state that your husband sleeps a lot. I note that he is taking Lunesta, which is a sleep aid. If he is getting more than adequate sleep (seven to eight hours), I don't believe he needs this. If he is taking it because he can't fall asleep at night, perhaps this is a result of him sleeping too much during the day. Try to keep your husband as active as possible during the day and he should have no problem sleeping at night.
    Before making any modifications, discuss your concerns with his physicians. Perhaps they would be willing to set up a conference call or meeting at which you and your husband can discuss the necessity of his medications and whether or not any can be modified, reduced or stopped. It is important, given his various ailments, that all his physicians agree on medication modifications.
    Perhaps now is also the time to involve a primary-care physician who can help you sort out his medications and treatments. This will also help in the future if his situation becomes worse. At that time, he may wish to have medication only to make him comfortable. Your husband's quality of life should be of the utmost importance, and if he is not enjoying his life and is missing out on the things he loves, his is suffering. This can also lead to depression.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Consumer Tips on Medicine."
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