Return to the Tried-and-True?

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • An issue that came up recently in my support group meetings was the tendency for many psychiatrists to prescribe the newest, most expensive medication instead of the old tried and true cheap one. Men in suits from the drug companies take these doctors to lunch at fancy restaurants to sell them on their newest release. And the doctors’ closets end up filled with samples, so it’s easy to hand a trial pack or two to a patient to try.

    It’s nice to be given free samples, but once you are on the drug for the long term, even if you have good health insurance, you’ll likely be paying more than you would have for an older drug. And prescribing the newest, most expensive drugs raises health-care costs for all of us. If we don’t pay out-of-pocket for the drug itself, we’ll eventually pay in higher insurance premium costs—or someone else will.
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    Another drawback to using the newest meds is that while they might have passed initial trials, they haven’t been around for the long-term usage that really determines a drug’s safety and efficacy. Lithium, which has been around long enough to be available in generic form and at a very low cost, has been found to be effective and safe for many of us if monitored carefully with blood tests. Why not start a new patient on this tried and true drug?

    Since we all react differently to medication, it may take several tries to find the right prescription or combination of drugs to fit an individual’s needs. Sometimes the newer medication is better in an individual case. This is why it’s important to ask your doctor why he or she is prescribing a particular drug, and if, perhaps, there isn’t an older, more fully tested one that might work as well.

    Ideally, you’ll do your own research on bipolar drugs, so that you are armed with information when you talk to your doctor. This doesn’t mean you become the expert and tell the doctor what to do, but that you present yourself as an informed patient and ask the right questions.

    Remember to talk to your doctor about your medical decisions, including drugs and other forms of treatment.

    Learn more about bipolar disorder.
Published On: July 21, 2006