Jan's story: Living with multiple medicines

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

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



Jan retired five years ago from her role in industrial relations undertaking negotiations, research, problem solving, support and representation. She lives on her own in the inner-north of Melbourne and is an active member of the community. Bushwalking is an important part of her life.


Current medicines and conditions

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

Prescription medicines

  • Augmentin Duo (amoxicillin and clavulanic acid): antibiotics to treat lung infection/pneumonia as needed
  • Generic clarithromycin (clarithromycin): antibiotic taken daily to manage bronchiectasis (ceased temporarily when Jan is taking Augmentin Duo)
  • Protos (strontium ranelate): osteopenia/osteoporosis
  • Polaramine (dexchlorpheniramine): an antihistamine to relieve allergies
  • Symbicort 400/12 and 200/6 (budesonide and formoterol): bronchiectasis and asthma
  • Zindaclin (clindamycin) or Finacea (azelaic acid): rosacea

Over-the-counter medicines

  • Panadol Osteo (paracetamol): pain relief
  • Telfast (fexofenadine): an antihistamine to relieve allergies
  • Systane (polyethylene glycol): dry eyes
  • Polygel eye gel (carbomer 974): dry eyes

Complementary medicines

  • Calcium tablets (includes calcium, magnesium, horsetail herb, manganese, zinc, vitamins K1 and D3, boron): to improve bone density
  • Vitamin D3: to improve bone density
  • Concentrated fish oils (1 capsule, 1 liquid)
  • Multivitamin and mineral: general health
  • Lysine (an amino acid): genital herpes


About Jan

Jan takes up to 15 medicines (some regularly, some as needed) and has not found this to be especially problematic as they were introduced gradually, so she has been able to accommodate them into her day-to-day life and establish routines for taking them. Most of the issues Jan had initially have been resolved through experience and open communication with her health professionals.

More about Jan

Jan has many interests and leads a very active life, including bushwalking and voluntary work. She was diagnosed with bronchiectasis and asthma in 2005 after two decades of regular recurrences of pneumonia and occasional pleurisy. It is the condition that has the most impact on her day-to-day life. The symptoms (excess mucus) were extremely disruptive to her work and she was concerned she would have to retire early. Starting regular antibiotics made an enormous difference by reducing ongoing symptoms and minimising the bouts of pneumonia and pleurisy. Jan needs to take Augmentin Duo as soon as she starts feeling ill, so she carries it with her everywhere and always has a prescription for it. This has made her life simpler knowing that she has the security of treatment that will prevent a serious respiratory illness. Jan was also diagnosed with genital herpes two years ago and has a mild outbreak about once a year. She once tried Lysine for rosacea and found that, although it was not effective for that condition, it successfully treated the outbreak of herpes she coincidentally had at the time. She has since used Lysine about four times and it has been extremely effective.

Jan has had some issues with her medicines, although these have had minimal impact on her life. She experiences diarrhoea as a side effect of Augmentin Duo, although this has been minimised since her initial dose was reduced. The cost of medicines was only an issue in her first year of retirement before she became eligible to receive a part pension. She has also found it difficult to find consistent information from reliable sources about what kind of calcium supplements to take and how to take them, which she takes to prevent osteoporosis from worsening. She has yet to find a satisfactory answer, despite discussing this with her doctors and pharmacist and attending relevant information sessions.

Jan is now so used to taking her medicines that she hardly thinks about them. Most of her medicines are taken with breakfast, which makes it easier, and most of her medicines were introduced one by one as new conditions arose, which made it easier to accommodate them in her life. She has also become accustomed to medicines such as eye drops, which were difficult to use initially but which are second nature now. Jan manages her medicines by storing them where they are visible and by carefully keeping track of the number she has taken. She has found it more difficult to remember to take her medicines when she has been very ill, but her usual strategies are still adequate. It can also be a nuisance packing medicines for holidays, so she does not take the fish oil if she is going to be away for a short period of time.

Jan credits the medicines she takes for allowing her to lead a normal life and wonders if she would be alive today without them. She believes it is important to ask a lot of questions about medicines that are prescribed and to communicate to doctors when a medicine is not working out, even if it means needing to be assertive. Jan believes in taking doctors’ advice, but that people’s own experiences are also valid.


Listen to Jan's story

Jan used to contract lung infections regularly due to her condition and sometimes needed to be hospitalised. She has since learned to manage her condition to prevent infections becoming more serious.
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Jan’s medicines were introduced individually over time, which made it easier for her to maintain a routine and feel ok about her health.
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Jan needs to time her eye-drops carefully when she is out and about, as they reduce her vision temporarily. Reduced vision could be a problem with different types of eye-drops.
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Jan had a number of extremely disruptive episodes of illness. It was a relief to begin medication that controlled these.
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Jan would find it impossible to take all of her complementary medicines when she goes away. Taking medicines on holidays has been an increasing problem over the years.
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Jan has become accustomed to her medicines over time, as each one was introduced. This has made it easier for her to accommodate each medicine into her daily routine.
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Jan’s first 12 months of retirement were necessarily self-funded, which posed problems for the affordability of her medicines. Now she is on an Age Pension, it is much easier.
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Jan needs to carry antibiotics with her at all times, so that she can start treatment immediately to prevent any illness becoming serious.
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Jan has sought information about calcium supplements from a number of sources and has received contradictory information.
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While Jan believes it is important to pay attention to health professionals, she feels it is ultimately her responsibility to manage her own health.
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It’s very clear in Jan’s mind how many tablets she needs to take every morning and this helps her with her routine. She only finds it difficult to remember her medicines when she is really ill.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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