A story about a drug for prostate enlargement and some problems it can cause
Because he’s a pharmacist, Philip had come to expect medication questions whenever he visited his grandparents. It wasn’t that they invited him over with that intension. His grandfather was on the grumpy side but they were both good people. And really, he didn’t mind answering their questions and explaining things to them. But that evening was far beyond the minor problems and questions. It was obvious moments after he got to their house.
Right after he walked through the front door, stomped the snow off his shoes, and walked into their living room he saw his grandfather in his usual recliner looking drugged. When he greeted him he didn’t wake up. Philip’s mouth dropped open and he headed into the kitchen where he asked his grandmother “What going on? Grampa didn’t even wake up when I came in and said ‘hi’ to him.”
“He’s been getting like this after he takes his prostate medicine,” his grandmother explained as she wiped her hands on a towel. “The doctor said the drowsiness would get better with time. He gets better after he eats and has some coffee.”
“Phil? Are you here?” His grandfather called out.
After shooting his grandmother a glance and getting a smile back, Philip headed back into the living room.
“Hey grampa, I just got here a few minutes ago. Didn’t you hear me come in?”
“No, why didn’t say something?”
“Are you feeling okay?”
“Just tired. Cora, when are we eating? We never had lunch today. A man could starve in this house.”
“Yes we did Robert, we each had half a tuna fish sandwich.”
“I don’t remember eating any tuna fish sandwich.”
Cora shook her head and looked at Philip. “Supper is almost ready. Will you help him to the table Philip?”
By the time Philip finished hanging up his coat and turned around, his grandfather had fallen asleep.
“Grampa, wake up, supper is ready.”
“Oh good, never had lunch today.”
After supper, Philip and his grandmother sat up talking without Robert since he went to bed. After looking at the prescription bottle, Philip shook his head.
“This is not a good medication for a man his age. There are better prostate drugs. This one is a type of drug called an alpha blocker. It causes drowsiness, as you know. It also keeps his blood pressure from going up likes it’s supposed to when he stands up so it causes dizziness. Either one of those could make him more likely to fall. Not a good medication for someone his age.”
“The drowsiness supposed to get better with time but if he falls before then, what’s the benefit?”
“Did they at least tell him to change position slowly?”
“No, but he found out it makes him dizzy when he stands up too quickly. What he doesn’t realize is how out of it he’s become. I think he sleeps about eighteen or nineteen hours a day. Any time I bring it up he thinks I’m exaggerating. He’s been on this medicine for a month now. He may not have any trouble going to the bathroom but he isn’t able to do much else. It’s like they made him into an old man. If he falls, well, you know what that can lead to with older people.”
“It’s often the beginning of the end. He needs to get off that medicine. If his doctor won’t make the change, change doctors. In the meantime, don’t let him get up alone.”
“I don’t understand why they would put him one such a medicine, especially if there are better drugs.”
“Grandma, I ask that question more than I care to think about. I wish every older person had a consulting pharmacist to monitor their all their medications. Drugs can be life savers or life takers if they aren’t prescribed appropriately. Not all prescribers are lacking, but enough are to make this a common problem.”
“Problem is an understatement. Hard to believe a tiny little pill can cause so many problems.”
“And that’s the last thing we want pills to do.”
Cora did get Robert’s doctor to stop the medicine cause so many problems. She also told a lot of her friends and relatives about what that medicine had done to her husband. She often wondered “What do people do that don’t have a pharmacist in the family?” A good question…. It is for this reason, I write.
This article is not intended to replace your health care provider. The intent is to illustrate some common problem with a group of medications sometimes prescribed for prostate enlargement and subsequent problems urinating.
To find a consultant pharmacist in your area, log onto this website:
I highly recommend Dr. Armon Neel’s and Bill Hogan’s Are Your Prescriptions Killing You? This excellent book explains the role of the consulting pharmacist in much more detail. It also includes a clear discussion of a number of medication classes, and the implications for the elderly. There are numerous stories illustrating important points. There are also many resources listed.