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Letter to NZine
Keywords for medication - INFORMATION followed by CHOICE

Margaret - 26/02/05

This week I read that a health advisory committee will meet in three weeks to decide the fate of Cox-2 inhibitor pain relief medicines after new concerns about their safety. According to Medsafe their initial conclusions after a review were that the risks of heart attack and stroke outweighed the benefits of the medicines.

The study which has caused their concern was based on dosage far stronger than that prescribed for most New Zealanders.

What are a patient's rights when it comes to medication? I am fortunate in having a general practitioner who takes the attitude that if I prefer to take a remedy suggested by an alternative health practitioner then it is my right to do so. I experienced a different attitude when being treated by a specialist who prescribed pills which made me feel ill, but insisted that I take them to prolong my life. The fact that while taking them I had an existence rather than a life did not seem to count. I took an alternative medication from the health food shop and I am still well five years after my last appointment with the specialist.

Certainly the public needs to be informed about the risks involved in taking such medications, but why can't it be left for patients themselves to make the decision provided it is made clear legally that they are acting on their own initiative and will not be able to blame the doctors or the medical suppliers if they suffer a heart attack or stroke later. Many people may decide that the time free of pain will be so worthwhile that they think the risk is worth taking.

Already Vioxx which eased the pain for so many people has been withdrawn so the choice has been reduced.

I certainly advocate informing patients of risks but I believe that we should have the right to make our own choices rather than having the choice taken away by Medsafe.


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