Case One: Constipation is a condition that affects the majority of individuals as they age. The pharmacist should start off by taking a look at MM's medication profile for potentially constipating medications. In her case, the antihistamine diphenhydramine may be causing or exacerbating her constipation. Elminating such medications can be a good strategy to prevent or minimize future constipation.
In addition to medication changes, diet and lifestyle alterations can also be very beneficial. The pharmacist might recommend increasing intake of dietary fiber, including fruit and vegetables, to help promote bowel regularity or an OTC fiber supplement (eg, psyllium). Other suggestions might include maintaining adequate fluid intake of at least 8 glasses of water per day. Finally, exercise has been shown to relieve constipation, so the pharmacist should suggest MM undertake some moderate exercise (ie, walking or swimming).
Case Two: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are efficacious treatments for MDD, but more than 50% of patients are nonadherent or only partially adherent to therapy. LP's partial nonadherence appears to be resulting in "brief treatment interruption" symptoms. Such symptoms often include disequilibrium, gastrointestinal symptoms, influenza-like symptoms, sensory disturbances, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and irritability,and can occur following even 1 to 3 days of not taking an SSRI.
Of all the SSRIs, paroxetine has been shown to have the highest rate of brief treatment interruption symptoms, likely because of the drug's relatively short half-life (21 hours) and its lack of an active metabolite. The pharmacist should explain to LP the importance of good medication adherence and provide him with some suggestions to help him take his medication daily as prescribed (eg, pill box, e-mail reminders).
LP's prescriber could also consider switching him to an SSRI with a longer half-life and/or an active metabolite. This type of discontinuation syndrome is least likely to occur with fluoxetine, which has a half-life of 4 to 6 days, and an active metabolite (norfluoxetine) with a half-life of approximately 9 days.
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