Farmology

Thursday, June 16 2005

Maddog Medic posted recently about a patient taking Peanutbutterballs, when actually the patient meant Phenobarbital. This got me to thinking about all the other ingenious pharmaceuticals which patients are taking, and the conditions they treat.

In Pharmacology one is taught that drugs have chemical names, such as H2O; generic names such as “water”, and trade names such as “Evian”. And now add to that patient names.

Now, before anyone accuses me of sneering at others, know that everyone does this. Kleenex and Xerox used to be specific brands of nosewipes and photocopiers, but nowadays have passed into the “hand me a kleenex” and “hey, xerox this will ya?” lexicography. We’re all guilty of making up our own terminologies for things, then, or at least using the terms thought up by others. Which makes sense. If someone hands you a document and asks you to Xerox it, off you go to photocopy it. If on the other hand they’re being all proper and righteous about their particular copier brand and ask you to Canon the document, what’re you gonna do? Shoot it out of something, which is not at all what they wanted. “Canon’d your document, went fifty feet!”

So everyone to some degree uses the wrong term, but the important thing is that everyone understands what is meant. It isn’t communication until everyone understands what’s being said. Rarely have I come up to someone and said, “Dude, you been doin’ 3-benzoyloxy-8-methyl-8-azabicyclo [3.2.1]octane-4-carboxylic acid methyl ester?” Very rarely. If they answer yes, they’re probably high. Usually, I say “cocaine”.

A patient taking “water pills” usually means some diuretic, generally lasix. Lord only knows when they tell you they have “lots of vitamins from the doctor”. Thankfully there is some underlying human need to lump this stuff together, on the nightstand, in the bathroom or kitchen where it can be swept into a bag and brought along. People whose homes otherwise show no underlying sense of order will have their medications together in one spot.

Patients name not only their medications but will also name their conditions. The variations are many, and strongly influenced by patient demographics. Just remember, “I have sugar” means the patient is a diabetic. “Gimme some sugar” means the patient wants a kiss – not recommended.

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