Jan: Knowing about multiple medicines – Inadequate or conflicting information

Listen to patients and health professionals speak about their experience with taking multiple medicines.

Age at interview: Undisclosed
Number of medicines: 15
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian

Jan has sought information about calcium supplements from a number of sources and has received contradictory information.

I went to the health food store where I usually buy my calcium and was served by a young woman. And it was a time when I was reviewing the calcium and I asked her a couple of questions that she couldn't answer, but she said she was interested in following it up and it turned out that she was a dietician who’d just completed her training and she was waiting to start her PhD and she made a little project of checking out calcium supplements for me. And I probably got as much useful information from her as I've got from anybody and it holds up, in terms of the other information I've had as well, what she's given me. 

She's sent me a couple of really long emails. I was really appreciative. She said she enjoyed doing it, because, 1) she realised that she didn't know as much about it as she should; and 2) she had some spare time and was used to research and study and was missing it, so she made a little project of the calcium research for me. But she's the only person who’s really, as an individual, seemed to really know how to go about gathering the information effectively and giving me things that looked like legitimate studies and made sense. 

And then I went to an endocrinologist talk recently during Seniors Week, who threw a spanner in the works, in terms of suggesting that a lot of what I'd learnt and she'd learnt and I'd always understood, like, that you take certain forms of calcium with food and sometimes it doesn't matter ... with other forms of calcium, you don't have to worry about that ... by telling us at his talk that you never take calcium with food ... ever, ever, ever, because it binds to the food and goes straight through your system and isn't absorbed. 

I went back later and looked at the material that she'd sent me, which was from some quite prestigious journals and so on and recent studies, which all said something quite different. Which is where I, I just find it very confusing. I don't know that there's enough research being done on those areas and perhaps there's not enough money in it. I don't know. But he was adamant, this was just a couple of weeks ago, that you never took calcium with food. But then, because they put vitamin D3 in with calcium supplements and you are supposed to take D3 with food, as I understand it ... how do you take half the tablet with food and half without? I mean, it gets a bit silly and it would just be nice if you got more reliable information on something as basic as a calcium supplement, which I would suspect that a very large proportion, particularly of the older population, would be taking.

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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with Healthtalk Australia.