Brown Bag it to your doctor’s appointment

Brown Bag it to your doctor’s appointment

Remarkable, how difficult it is for a person to accurately recall the medications they are encouraged to take each day, what the medications are for, who prescribed them, and if the medications were stopped, why.  Yet this medical history is crucial, as you will see.  Bring everything you take with you to your appointment.  In a brown bag if you’d like!

Sample dialogues occurring daily in doctors offices across the country:

1) Dialogue 1 – The new patient encounter

Doctor: “What medications are you on?”

Patient: “It’s the pink one… kinda shaped like a football”.  (This narrows the search… to several hundred possibilities.)

D: “What dose are you taking?”

P:  “It used to be 10, but I think he increased it and added something to it too”.


2) Dialogue 2 – The I-can’t-recall patient

D: “Are you on any medications”

P:  “No”

D: ” Your blood pressure is high today”

P: “Oh, yeah I used to have high blood pressure.

D:   “Were you ever treated?”

P:   “Oh yeah”

D:   “Why did you stop?”

P:   ” I ran out of the pills”, “I didn’t like how I felt”, or… “I couldn’t afford the medication”

D: “what was the medication so we can be sure to avoid it?”

P:  “I don’t recall”


3) Dialogue 3 – The dutiful husband

D:  Are you taking anything else

P:  No

D:  Any vitamins, supplements, potions or salves?

P:  Oh sure.

D:  What are they?

P:  I don’t know.  My wife lays them out for me in the morning and I just take them.


1) Most people take multiple drugs.  Nearly everyone thinks that if it is not a prescription medication, then it is not a “drug”.  Yet vitamins, supplements, salves, and potions are all chemicals and are taken with the intent of each affecting your body’s chemistry somehow.  Therefore they are drugs as well and must be regarded as potent agents that can interact with each other and with prescription medications.

2) The risk of side effects and adverse reactions rises with the number of chemicals taken. (13% chance with only two medicines, but 82% for seven medications, and a virtual certainty if you are taking over 10 medications).

3) Unnecessary or redundant medication:  60% of those taking 5 or more medications have overlapping (redundant) medications, or simply unnecessary medications  (this includes over the counter medications).

4) One study also showed that about the same number (64%) of people were not taking a medication that might be helpful.

From the above you might conclude that this author is suggesting that nearly everyone should be taking something.    You would be right, but you should be taking only the correct thing(s).  Nearly everyone needs and benefits from a degree of Vitamin D supplementation, Calcium if lactose intolerant, B12 if over 50…(i.e. specifically individualized recommendations).  The take home message is that everything counts as drugs, including vitamins and supplements, and that your physician needs to know all of what you are taking if you want him or her to help you with accuracy and safety.


Bring all your medications (prescription medications, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements, even the details of any special diet you may be on) with you to every appointment.  Brown bag Them and bring them with you.

This saves huge time, brings focus to your visit…. most importantly, it is the only way to make your appointment with your physician efficient, effective and properly grounded.


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