Lesley's story: Living with multiple medicines

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

Age at interview: 74
Number of medicines: 25
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian



Lesley has retired from her job as a secretary and lives on her own in a retirement village on Sydney’s north shore. Over the years, she has held many positions in her local branch of Diabetes Australia.


Current medicines and conditions

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

  • Lantus insulin: type 2 diabetes
  • NovoRapid insulin: type 2 diabetes
  • Metformin: type 2 diabetes
  • Karvea (irbesartan): blood pressure
  • Lasix (furosemide [frusemide]): diuretic for venous pulmonary congestion (early stage of heart failure)
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin): cholesterol
  • Plavix (clopidogrel): prevents blood clots
  • Xanax (alprazolam): anxiety
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine): mood stabiliser (to prevent depression)
  • Panamax (paracetamol): pain management for arthritis and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis
  • Panadeine (paracetamol + codeine): pain management
  • Allegron (nortriptyline): pain management
  • Progynova (estradiol): hormone replacement therapy
  • Provera (medroxyprogesterone): hormone replacement therapy
  • Seretide (fluticasone + salmeterol) inhaler: asthma
  • Folic acid: folic acid supplement
  • Magmin (magnesium aspartate): magnesium supplement
  • Vitamin C: vitamin C supplement
  • Ostelin (cholecalciferol): vitamin D supplement
  • Vitamin B12 injection: vitamin B12 supplement
  • Avamys (fluticasone) nose drops: hay fever
  • Ventolin (salbutamol) inhaler: asthma, bronchiectasis
  • Cortisone tablets: asthma
  • Aristocort (triamcinolone) cream: eczema (mainly in summer)
  • Canesten (clotrimazole) cream: thrush.


Medication allergies

Aspirin (causes asthma), iodine-containing contrast media for CAT scans.


Previous conditions and medicines discussed

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): caused bleeding oesophageal ulcers
  • Morphine skin patches: pain relief (not very effective)
  • Meniere’s disease.

About Lesley

Lesley takes many medicines, mainly to manage her diabetes, asthma, depression and anxiety, and as pain relief for her arthritis.

Lesley uses two types of insulin plus metformin tablets to manage her type 2 diabetes. She started taking Valium for anxiety in her 20s and remained on it for 30 years as no-one knew at the time that it was addictive. It took Lesley three years to come off Valium, and so when her anxiety worsened a few years ago, she was a little reluctant to start on a similar medicine, Xanax, but is relieved that a low dose has improved her symptoms.

Lesley likes to discuss her medical conditions and treatments with her doctors and regularly reviews all her medicines with her GP to see if she really needs to take them all.

More about Lesley

Lesley uses 25 medicines regularly, mainly to manage her type 2 diabetes, asthma, depression and anxiety, and as pain relief for her arthritis.

When Lesley was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, her blood sugar was controlled with tablets only, but she now uses two different insulins (a long-acting insulin twice a day plus a short-acting one before each meal) plus metformin tablets. Lesley learned about the benefits of insulin in type 2 diabetes from her involvement with her local branch of Diabetes Australia, and it was she who asked her doctor about starting insulin. Lesley was a little self-conscious at first when injecting in public, but now that she uses an insulin pen and can inject through her clothes, she is no longer concerned.

Lesley has had both asthma and arthritis since her 20s. Generally her asthma has been well controlled, but she has recently had a number of bad asthma attacks associated with the stress of losing her husband to cancer, so her doctor has increased the dose of her preventer medicine, Seretide.

At first, Lesley only had arthritis in her knees and spine, but now she has it throughout her body. Initially, she took non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for the pain but stopped them after they caused ulcers in her oesophagus which bled. Her pain is now well managed with 10 daily tablets—eight tablets of either Panadol (paracetamol) or Panadeine (paracetamol plus codeine) depending on her level of pain, plus two Allegron tablets. In higher doses, Allegron is used as an antidepressant but Lesley takes a low dose which works together with the paracetamol to give her better pain relief.

Lesley has had anxiety for many years, as well as depression, and has been attending a day program at a psychiatric hospital for the past six months which has been a help. For the past two years, she has been taking a small dose of Zyprexa to help stabilise her mood to stop her feeling so down. In her 20s, Lesley started taking Valium to help her cope with her young children’s health problems and remained on it for 30 years. No-one knew at the time that Valium was addictive. It was only when reading a magazine article that Lesley realised that the symptoms she was still experiencing may have been withdrawal symptoms. It took her three years to slowly withdraw from Valium. A few years ago when her husband became really sick Lesley started having severe anxiety again, which mainly affected her physically—her muscles sometimes tightened up so much that she couldn’t turn her head or walk. Reluctantly, she started on a very low dose of Xanax, a medicine related to Valium, and is hoping to be able to wean herself off it soon.

Lesley has been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for more than 20 years and after hearing news reports of a possible increase in breast cancer associated with HRT, discussed the pros and cons of staying on it with her doctor. As she has no family history of breast cancer but has had to take cortisone at times to control her asthma, which can weaken her bones, and previously experienced distressing hot flushes, Lesley has decided to continue taking HRT.

By sticking to a routine, Lesley never forgets to take any of her medicines. Although her pharmacist has suggested packing her medicines into Webster-paks, Lesley prefers not to at the moment as she knows exactly what medicines she is taking, when to take them and what they are all for. Her pharmacist has offered Lesley generic medicines but she prefers to have the original brand named products so she knows precisely what she is taking and what the medicine looks like.

It is very important for Lesley to be able to easily discuss things with her doctors as she likes to learn as much as she can about her medical conditions and treatments. Before starting any new medicine, Lesley researches it first, usually using the internet. She also regularly reviews all her medicines with her GP to see if she really needs to take them all.


Listen to Lesley's story

Lesley joined Diabetes Australia and became involved as a volunteer. She has learned a great deal about diabetes through her various roles in the organisation.
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Lesley finds her medicines easy to manage because she keeps to a very precise routine.
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Lesley suffered memory problems when she was withdrawing from an addiction to Valium. There are a number of important family moments that she does not remember.
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Lesley was caught without her medicines when her husband was in hospital at the end of his life and she needed to stay with him.
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Lesley believes she would not have lived this long were it not for her medicines.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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