ALTHOUGH I have written on the topic many times, I cannot resist the temptation of ‘playing the same gramophone record’ again reiterating Dr Silvert’s remarks at our AGM.

We all need medications, mostly prescribed by our doctors from time to time to cure some ‘ills’ or remedy symptoms. Occasionally we also ‘self-prescribe’ — just purchasing pills ‘off the shelf." I’ll return to this later.

The properly prescribed medicines must be taken as directed by the doctor or by the chemist, as mentioned on the box. The course must be completed and outcome should be reported back to the doctor. In case the medicine causes any unwanted problems, side effects etc, it must be discontinued (but not thrown away) and the prescriber be intimated.

At that stage several actions can be taken. It can be stopped, the dosage changed, a new diagnosis may be considered or an additional medication be prescribed to counter the side effects.

Persisting problems must again be reported for further actions. As regards the course, even if the symptoms get ‘remedied’ the intake should continue until it is completed. There may be good scientific reason for this, especially in case of infections treated with antibiotics. Incomplete courses may cause harm for the future. The bugs causing the infection may get resistant to the antibiotic and may not work effectively in the future.

When the number of drugs begin to increase, always consult with the practice nurse or the doctor, whether ALL the drugs are still necessary. It is possible that the doctor might have forgotten what, if any, was prescribed before and was no longer indicated. Old time-expired medicines must not be placed in the bin or in the WC – they should be taken back to the nearest chemist for disposal. Remember such ‘discarded’ medicines do kill young children if taken out of innocent curiosity.

Purchased off the shelf in a supermarket or at a chemists stores should be taken only if used before, if you are not sure always ask at the counter or the available chemist (they are highly qualified professionals fully trained to advise you and guide you).

Unnecessary pill–taking is always bad — do not develop a habit of taking a tablet ‘for everything.’

Many conditions are self-limited, will get better after a few days anyway so why damage your body with strong chemicals ie medications. And avoid taking sleeping pills — they all stop working after a while and leave you ‘hooked’ if continued for too long.

Common cold is caused by virus, antibiotics do not work here so do not press your doctor to prescribe antibiotics. He won’t give you any anyway. If you take antibiotics, common cold gets better in seven days. If you do not, it takes a week! So please avoid them for colds.

I have said it many times. Just like motor cars, medications are extremely useful if handled properly – and just like cars, if used stupidly, they can also kill....

Arup Banerjee