Q: I am a Type 1 diabetic. Last year, I went to the hospital because I had ruptured a spinal disk. As I lay in the emergency room in excruciating pain, my wife and I gave my history and my current drug usage (which was already in the hospital electronic medical record). I supplied the details at least three more times.
During the week before and after back surgery, my blood sugars climbed — not just a little, as was to be expected from trauma, but as high as 700 mg/dl. Even through a Vicodin haze, I knew I wasn't getting enough insulin.
I was finally admitted to the ICU for intensive insulin therapy. I later learned that on at least three days, my Levemir insulin injection was not given, and on the day of the surgery, no insulin at all was administered.
My own physician found this care appalling. Another doctor said blood sugars that high could trigger stroke, among other things. I was astounded that the hospital said no mistakes were made.
A: We are shocked, but errors in care during hospitalization are not rare. A study in 2010 showed that one in five hospital patients suffered harm, and 40 percent of the problems could have been avoided (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 25, 2010). A government study found 180,000 Medicare patients die each year because of health care gone awry (Health and Human Services, November 2010).
One of the most important things you can do during a hospital visit is to bring an advocate who can be assertive on your behalf. Double-checking medications also is crucial.
Q: My wife accidentally stumbled upon a liquid NSAID, Pennsaid. It is a blessing.
I have had uncontrollable fibromyalgia for more than a decade. All my health care providers say mine is the worst case they've ever seen. I have knots the size of silver dollars that you can see through a knit shirt. Pennsaid gives me great relief.
It is not a narcotic, but it does require a prescription. I am thrilled to know that fibromyalgia can be tamed.
A: Not everyone with fibromyalgia may benefit as much as you, but we are glad you get such relief. Pennsaid contains the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac. It is similar to drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen, but it is applied to the skin. It is prescribed primarily for arthritis pain.
Q: I take furosemide (a diuretic), and for a long time I took Mylan brand generic. Then the pharmacy switched me to a different generic. My weight jumped 5 pounds overnight.
I still had some Mylan tablets on hand, so I switched back and lost the water. Three days later, I tried the new generic. Same problem. These are both generic forms of the drug, but even among generics there are big differences.
A: How smart of you to pay attention! Many readers report that not all generics work equally well. Submit such problems to http://www.FDA.gov/MedWatch and to the Food and Drug Administration's generic drug office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com
Hospital error could have been deadly for diabetic
Liquid NSAID helps one reader's fibromyalgia; and generic drugs aren't always the same as a brand-name
A syringe being filled by an insulin bottle. (Digital Vision photo / March 29, 2012)
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