Sue's story: Living with multiple medicines

Age at interview: 65
Number of medicines: 16
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian



Sue was a full-time clinical psychologist providing therapy for children, teenagers and their parents. She retired in 2010. Sue lives on her own in the inner-west of Sydney and often has her daughter and grandchildren to visit.


Current medicines and conditions

Some medicines are taken regularly; some are taken only as needed.

  • Ursofalk (ursodeoxycholic acid): primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Panafcort (prednisone): pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Somac (pantoprazole): stomach acidity caused by high doses of prednisone
  • Ferrograd-C (ferrous sulphate and ascorbic acid): treats anaemia (low iron) caused by chronic inflammation
  • Folic acid: treats folic acid depletion caused by warm auto-immune haemolytic anaemia
  • Legalon (milk thistle): healthy liver function
  • Lipoic acid (a fatty acid and considered an anti-oxidant): general health
  • Multivitamins and minerals; additional B12, C, D, zinc: to manage various deficiencies and to maintain general health, including bone health, digestion and immune function
  • Magnesium taurate complex (amino acid-mineral complex): magnesium deficiency
  • Metagest (a digestive enzyme): aids digestion of nutrients
  • Fish oil: general health
  • NAC (N-acetyl-l-cysteine; antioxidant): general health
  • Troches (method of administering bioidentical hormones): prevents osteoporosis
  • Citracal (calcium supplement): prevents osteoporosis
  • Strontium carbonate: prevents osteoporosis
  • Kenalog cream (triamcinolone acetonide): controls mouth ulcers, a symptom of auto-immune attack.


Medication allergies

Penicillin, cefazolin, clindamycin.


Previous conditions and medicines discussed

Ciclosporin, Orabase SM33.


About Sue

Sue is currently using a large number of both prescription and complementary medicines to manage primary biliary cirrhosis, pyoderma gangrenosum and autoimmune haemolytic anaemia. Her biggest challenges have been with the complexity of her medicine regimen and the constant changes in dosage with each new round of blood tests. Despite her conditions, she still considers herself a fairly healthy person who takes care of herself with a good diet and regular exercise.

More about Sue

In 1999, Sue was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis after she had some abnormal liver function tests. Having always considered herself a very healthy and active person, she struggled to reconceptualise herself as someone living with a chronic illness. While being grateful to the doctor who initially diagnosed her illness at a comparatively early stage, she sought out a GP who would help her manage the illness and who had a holistic approach, as this made the most sense to her.

Apart from the necessary prescription medicines, Sue’s GP also recommended a number of complementary medicines to assist with some of the side effects of her other medications and to improve her overall wellbeing. She is reassured by the fact that her doctor regularly reviews her blood results and adjusts the dosages accordingly. Nevertheless, it has meant that she has had to be very organised and methodical so that she can keep on top of the changes. She has developed several methods of keeping her medicines organised, including a single medicines ‘master’ list, but also uses her diary to keep track of dosage changes. She often wonders whether her way is the best way of doing things, but it works for her.

In 2008, Sue had her first episode of pyoderma gangrenosum, a serious ulcerative skin condition and, at one stage, was in danger of losing her hand. Treatment involved three weeks in hospital, multiple operations to clear the necrotic (dead) tissue and repair surgical wounds, and medication. Had it not been for these treatments, the outcome for Sue could have been so much worse.

Sometimes, Sue has found it difficult to find information and support as her illnesses are relatively uncommon, but she has been proactive in seeking information from the internet. On one occasion, it put her in touch with someone who shared her skin condition and this led to a recommendation for a medication to treat a troubling symptom. Sue was thrilled when this worked and was pleased that there was an avenue available to share experiences and to feel that you are not alone.

In 2012, Sue was hospitalised and diagnosed with auto-immune haemolytic anaemia. With the addition of new medications, her medicine regimen became very complex and challenging to manage. Sue does not, however, like to be dictated to by her medicines and tries to live as normal a life as possible. At times, she has difficulty swallowing them all and will often take them with a mouthful of food rather than water, as they seem to go down more easily.

Sue is now 12 years post diagnosis of her liver condition and credits this largely to her medicines, both prescription and complementary. While the cost of her medicines has required her to prioritise things at times and she has not been able to travel as much as she would like, she accepts that the medicines are just part of who she is now and that, in taking them, she is doing something constructive in fighting against and managing her conditions.


Listen to Sue's story

Sue has a well-established routine, but minor changes are sometimes made after results of a medical test indicate something different needs to happen. There is then a ‘re-adjustment period’ before she feels comfortable again.
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Sue feels that she has the kind of evidence she needs that complementary medicines are working for her.
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Sue finds the cost of her complementary medicines expensive. As her health is a priority for her and complementary medicines are a major part of that, she prioritises them and goes without other things.
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Sue needed to take a medicine for which the long-term side effects made the impact of her other conditions worse.
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Sue will often deflect people’s questions with a light-hearted response. At other times she actually finds it helpful to talk about medicines with someone new.
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Sue is less concerned about the questions people ask now compared to when she first began taking a number of medicines. It helps that people close to her know and understand her situation.
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Sue is sometimes unsure how to adapt certain routines to accommodate her medicines, which can be frustrating.
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Sue can imagine a time when it will be difficult for her to take her complementary medicines and will need a high level of support to help manage them.
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Sue aims to be as informed about her medicines as possible. She has spoken to her pharmacist about side effects she has experienced.
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Sue stores all of her medicines on a tray. This means they are visible most of the time and quickly put away safely when her young grandchildren come to visit.
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Sue regards the worst thing about the number of medicines she takes as being the work that is involved. This can be unrelenting but she just gets on with it.
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Sue found a GP who takes a holistic approach to healthcare, which aligns with her beliefs. It annoys her when people do not respect her position and tell her she is wasting her time and money on complementary medicines.
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Sue found she could not open the bottles of some of her medicines and had to ask her pharmacist or neighbour to help her.
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Sue finds alternatives to medicines for pain relief whenever possible, as she does not want to overload her liver due to the condition she has and the number of medicines she is taking regularly.
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Sue acknowledges that it is a lot of work organising her medicines. But for her it is natural, as she takes this approach to other areas of her life.
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Sue describes the time-consuming nature of organising and packing her medicines to go on holidays.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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