Mary's story: Living with multiple medicines

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

Age at interview: 66
Number of medicines: 8
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian



Mary is retired and lives in a semi-rural suburb not far from Melbourne with her husband and son (she has other children who have moved out of home). She is very active in her local Country Women’s Association.


Current medicines and conditions

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

  • Diamicron (gliclazide): oral hypoglycaemic, type 2 diabetes
  • Diabex (metformin hydrochloride): control of blood sugar in diabetes; may aid in weight loss
  • Norspan (buprenorphine): transdermal opioid analgesic for treatment of moderate to severe pain
  • Byetta (exenatide): injection to increase insulin secretion and slows absorption of glucose from the gut; aids in weight loss
  • Murelax (oxazepam): used in the treatment of anxiety
  • Panadol Osteo (paracetamol 665 mg): painkiller—immediate and sustained release
  • Somac (pantoprazole): heartburn
  • Elevated cholesterol (medication not noted)


Medication allergies



Previous conditions and medicines discussed

Aspirin, insulin, Panadeine Forte, Mersyndol, Percodan.


About Mary

Mary is currently taking eight medicines, primarily for type 2 diabetes and chronic back and shoulder pain. There have been several changes to her medicine regimen over the years as her symptoms have changed and her weight has fluctuated, sometimes causing difficulties in determining appropriate doses. Cardiac bypass surgery and a recent stroke have had a big impact and she is determined to lose more weight. Substantial weight loss has enabled her to cease some of her medications and she manages her remaining ones with the use of a Webster-pak from her pharmacist, which has made life much easier.

More about Mary

Mary started her first medication in her late 30s for diabetes, for which there is a strong family history. Indeed, it was her mother who first alerted her to the symptoms and encouraged her to see her GP. Despite resisting it for some time, she was eventually commenced on insulin injections to control her diabetes and, of all the medications she has commenced over the years, this was the one she disliked the most.

In the meantime, she had developed back problems and a frozen shoulder and had begun to take a number of pain relief medications. At varying times, she was taking Panadeine Forte, Mersyndol and even Percodan but, despite warnings of the addictive nature of codeine, she continued to take these freely to relieve her symptoms.

Mary developed hypertension after losing her mother and a brother in the same year and was commenced on medication for this. In 1997, found herself in hospital for quadruple cardiac bypass surgery. It was while she was in hospital that she realised how dependent she had become on her over-the-counter codeine tablets and caught herself trying to hide the tablets from hospital staff. She had been too embarrassed to tell her GP or her family how many she was taking. Showing great determination, she managed to wean herself off the codeine preparations over a 12–18 month period and, in combination with her ongoing weight loss, she is now able to manage with slow-release dermal patches and Panadol Osteo monitored by her GP.

Mary suffered a stroke in 2010. There have been no long-term effects, but the experience frightened Mary and she became determined to lose weight. She has since lost 25 kg and intends to lose more. Her ability to move around and do things have dramatically improved, her blood pressure has returned to normal and she no longer needs to use insulin injections, so her goal to rid herself of this medication was finally achieved. Doses of some of her other medications were able to be reduced.

One of Mary’s other major challenges has been remembering to take her remaining medications at the appropriate times. She is still juggling 20 tablets a day. Her husband, a seniors’ peer educator with the Council of the Ageing (COTA), drew her attention to Webster-paks. After discussing it with her pharmacist, she very happily accepted this service and highly recommends it to anyone who takes a lot of medicines like she does.

Mary also has wonderful doctors with whom she feels comfortable asking questions. She believes this is important and encourages people to find health professionals they can talk to easily.

Mary believes it is important for people to take control of their own health; however, people also have to be ready for change and cannot be ‘forced’ by anyone else. Mary is living proof of the benefits to be had by changing the way she looks after herself.


Listen to Mary's story

Mary is mostly bothered by the amount of medicines that she takes.
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Mary became dependent on codeine. She realised that she could not continue taking codeine in hospital, so she stopped taking it and reduced her dependency on her own.
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Mary started keeping a medicines list after her husband suggested it to her, because she once had to go to hospital and could not remember all of her medicines to tell the doctor.
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Having a Webster-pak has made an enormous difference to Mary. She is less likely to forget to take her medicines or become confused.
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Mary’s endocrinologist agreed that she could stop insulin because she had lost a significant amount of weight. Her blood pressure and cholesterol levels have also greatly improved and she has been able to reduce the doses of a number of other medicines.
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Mary has started asking her doctors more questions due to an increased awareness of the potential dangers of medicines.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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