Nice piece today on your blog about how you manage your medications. I wish I had read it a couple months ago. Here’s why.
In early February, during a visit to my GP for continuing bronchitis, she discovered “alarming” high blood pressure (168/108). So, in addition to prescribing the standard “Z-pack” (azithromycin) for the lung infection, she put me on lisinopril (20 milligrams a day), an “ACE inhibitor” to lower the blood pressure. Soon enough, my blood pressure entered normal range.
The next week, I went on a ten-day vacation in Arizona, and was positively miserable. I was coughing more than before, endlessly clearing my throat, and now producing vast amounts of (ugh, sorry about this) clear, slimy phlegm. Sleep became difficult because of the respiratory distress. People probably thought I had the plague.
Later in March, and with these continuing symptoms, I updated my doctor. Thinking, as I did, that the bronchitis was still unchecked, she put me on a new antibiotic (levofloxacin) for a couple days. I dared to hope that relief was at hand. But alas, nada. The onslaught of phlegm continued.
On April 2 – I remember the day, so like a revelation was my discovery – I searched “lisinopril” on the internet. I bounced from one site to another, gathering evidence along the way that about 30 percent of all people who took this drug experienced the same nagging side effects that had been bedeviling me. I felt reborn! I’d learned something that gave me hope. (I also learned that there were many people out there who were very angry about their experiences with lisinopril. People described feeling “poisoned” by it. There was even information about class-action lawsuits. I just wanted to feel better.)
That afternoon, after taking a sunny walk in the woods, thinking happy thoughts about a future free from phlegm, I called my doctor to report my finding. She said, “Yes, some patients do experience those symptoms with lisinopril and other ACE-inhibitors.” I answered, “I wish you had told me.” After a brief, difficult silence, I asked her to prescribe another category of blood pressure medication that did not cause those symptoms. I began taking losartan the next day.
It is now three weeks since I stopped taking lisinopril. Unfortunately, the symptoms continue, though perhaps just slightly abated now. My continuing research suggests that many people need weeks – even months – before they become symptom-free. This drug had about two months to build up its toxic effect on my body, and apparently I’ll need more time for my body to fully metabolize the toxicity out of my system. The cough is still there, but I am now living with hope.
If only! I wish – as you have advised your blog’s readers – I had asked my doctor about lisinopril’s possible side effects before I took the plunge. Yes, it would have been nice if she had raised the red flag on her own, or even if she had pulled the plug on this drug when I complained about continuing symptoms… instead of prescribing yet another antibiotic. But I’d prefer learning THIS lesson: We must assume full responsibility for our own care, to the extent we can. It was within my power to prevent this unpleasantness altogether. Be your own best advocate!
Thanks for listening, John. And for the advice. Keep it coming!