Dorothy's story: Living with multiple medicines

Find out about Dorothy and hear her speak about the value and challenges of taking multiple medicines.

Age at interview: 88
Number of medicines: 11
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian



Dorothy is retired and is currently gaining a lot from a creative writing course. She lives in a retirement village in Sydney. She has raised five children and has a number of grandchildren.


Current medicines and conditions

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

  • Plavix (clopidogrel): prevents blood clots
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium): high cholesterol
  • Coversyl (perindopril arginine): high blood pressure
  • Actonel (risedronate sodium): osteoporosis
  • Atenolol (atenolol): high blood pressure
  • Aspro Clear (aspirin): as a blood thinner
  • Panadol Osteo (paracetamol): back pain
  • Garlic: prevent colds
  • Glucosamine: joint health
  • Fish oil: joint health
  • Vitamin B12/iron: pernicious anaemia


Medication allergies

Keflex, codeine, penicillin.


Previous conditions and medicines discussed

Cartia; monthly iron injections for pernicious anaemia; Difflam.


About Dorothy

Dorothy takes 11 medicines that include prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines. She uses a Webster-pak that makes it very easy to remember to take her medicines. She has allergies to a small number of medicines and has experienced side effects, but these are currently well-managed. Dorothy trusts her doctors and is willing to do as they suggest. However, she changed GPs when she found one she felt she could talk to. Dorothy has also found pharmacists and psychologists to be extremely helpful.

More about Dorothy

Dorothy needs to take medicines to manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis and to maintain heart health following a heart attack and insertion of a stent three weeks prior to the interview. She also takes medication to relieve back pain due to age and a traffic accident many years ago. Dorothy has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which currently does not require treatment. She also had a minor stroke four years ago and has carried a medicines list with her ever since.

Dorothy has been taking garlic tablets for nearly 40 years and believes they are the reason why she does not get colds that last very long. She has recently started taking glucosamine and fish oil and sometimes wonders if they are actually effective. However, she does not want to risk becoming really ill if she stops taking them, so she has made a conscious decision that this is how she wants to spend her money.

Dorothy finds it relatively easy to take her medicines and maintain her daily medication regimen. This was not always the case: she found she was becoming forgetful and anxious that she was not taking them appropriately. Her son encouraged her to start using a Webster-pak, which is packed for her at the pharmacy. This has made it much easier for her to remember to take them and gives her peace of mind that she is taking them correctly. It has also meant that the introduction of Plavix and aspirin in the previous month have not posed any problem. Dorothy used to find it difficult to swallow larger tablets, so she now breaks them in half using a tablet cutter. She does find that her medicines regimen can be disrupted when she goes away on holidays.

Dorothy's retirement village also offers a pharmacy delivery service, which she finds to be excellent.

Dorothy has experienced a number of side effects and allergic reactions to certain medicines in the past. Because she has pulmonary fibrosis, she needs to go onto antibiotics if she ever gets a chest infection. Antibiotics make her nauseated, but she always continues a course of antibiotics to completion. The medicines she is allergic to can cause serious reactions: penicillin gives her a rash and makes it difficult to breathe, while codeine causes severe vomiting.

Dorothy describes herself as being 'of the old school' as she trusts her doctors and has always followed their instructions closely. However, she once saw a female GP in the same practice when her usual GP was not available and decided to change GPs permanently, as she felt she could communicate with her more effectively and get the reassurance she needs. There was no problem with this change and her former GP was very understanding. She has also found pharmacists offer extremely helpful suggestions whenever she asks them questions. Dorothy has recently learned about management strategies to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and has found the resources given to her by a psychologist extremely helpful.

Dorothy does not mind taking medicines, as they keep her well and help her age. She strongly encourages other people to use a Webster-pak if they find it at all difficult to remember to take their medicines.


Listen to Dorothy's story

Dorothy was treated by a female GP following an accident when her usual GP was on leave. She was initially reluctant to change doctors permanently but she actually found that this was not a problem for the practice or for the doctors involved.
Read transcript

When Dorothy moved into a retirement village, she found her usual pharmacist was too far away. She then discovered the village offered a pharmacy service, which was a big help.
Read transcript


The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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