Handling Drug Side Effects – Rheumatoid Arthritis Version

It’s happened again. An acquaintance told me about his mother’s death which was attributed to pneumonia. What actually happened was that her prescription medication made her so sick that she vomited and aspirated, which means that she inhaled the gunk from her stomach into her lungs causing her lungs to fill with fluid. That allowed her death to enter the world of mortality statistics as pneumonia when the true cause — prescribed pharmaceuticals– remains hidden.

. . . sigh . . . .

Side effects are built into every drug we take, no exceptions. The side effects may seem minor, like insomnia or anemia, or we may know immediately that we’re in trouble.

Lethal side effects may occur suddenly and without warning, like the bleed-outs caused by aspirin and other NSAIDS or the liver failure associated with acetaminophen (Tylenol).

My suggestion for dealing with side effects is to stop taking the drugs. Why endanger your life when you can eliminate the inflammation of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and most likely other inflammatory autoimmune conditions, by changing your diet. Yes, it can take some effort, but it is free and will not kill you.

Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, are exactly the opposite. They cost a fortune and may kill you, as they have thousands of others, but taking a pill requires no effort.

You have to choose.

Until you have removed pharmaceuticals from your life, here are some suggestions for dealing with side effects from people who know a lot about drug side effects: the Arthritis Foundation, with my critique, of course.

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MY NOTE: Here are some safe and workable suggestions for handling the side effects of NSAIDS:

–Take the medication with food.
–Take a once-daily NSAID in the afternoon or evening, instead of the morning.
— Avoid alcohol. Alcohol mixed with NSAIDs can increase gastric bleeding to even higher levels.
— Avoid taking an NSAID with another medication, such as a cold remedy, which could also contain an NSAID and increase your risk of ulcers.

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MY NOTE: The suggestions below involve adding more drugs to a regimen that is already making you sick. Remember, the more drugs you take the better your chances for disaster. We should scoff at suggestions like these:

–Take NSAIDs with a drug that reduces stomach acid. These come in two types and include cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine hydrochloride (Zantac), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec).

– Switch from an oral DMARD to an injected form. For severe problems, ask about anti-nausea and vomiting drugs such as granisetron (Kytril) or metoclopramide (Reglan).

– Add misoprostal (Cytotec) to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers and promote healing of existing ulcers. Misoprostol comes in a combination product called Arthrotec, which also contains the NSAID diclofenac sodium.

MY NOTE: Research has shown that Diclofenac may be the single most dangerous NSAID on the market. See other posts under the tab ‘Medical Headlines Translated’ on this site.

– Switch to celecoxib (Celebrex), a type of NSAID called a COX-2 that has less risk of stomach ulcers.

MY NOTE: Celebrex vastly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and a serious allergic skin reaction called Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS). It’s relative, Vioxx, was withdrawn from the market and there has been talk of also withdrawing Celebrex and other COX-2 inhibitors like Bextra because of their danger. Less risk of stomach ulcer does not make a safe drug. Shame on the Arthritis Foundation for this suggestion.

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Side effect: Insomnia from corticosteroids and prednisone.
Solution:
— Take a once-daily dose in the morning.
— Avoid stimulants such as caffeine that exacerbate sleeplessness.

MY NOTE: Steroids are so dangerous, and so interfere with normal cell function, that they should never be used outside of a life-threatening emergency. Short term use of steroids can cause cataracts, glaucoma, high blood pressure, swelling of limbs, and fat redistribution on the body. Long term use can result in bone and skin thinning, diabetes, interfere with wound healing and can disable the the immune system and the adrenals, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

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Side effect: Dry mouth from antidepressants, narcotic analgesics
Solution:
— Moisten your mouth with sugar-free gum or hard candies, or by sucking on ice chips.
— Try saliva substitutes, such as Salivart, Xerolube or Glandosan.
— Avoid alcohol or alcohol-containing mouthwashes that can make dry mouth worse.

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Side effect: Mouth ulcers due to methotrexate

Solutions:
–Avoid salty or spicy foods or excess citrus fruits that can irritate ulcers
–Try topical pain relievers such as Oragel or Zilactin or ask your doctor or dentist about a prescription rinse or mouthwash to help ulcers heal.

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