There was a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday (Tuesday, March 15th) entitled Your Medicine Metabolism. Did you know that individual reactions to a common drug like codeine can range from life-threatening to completely ineffective? Codeine is prescribed for pain but individual genetic make-up can cause a wide range of reactions. About 2% of the population metabolizes the drug so quickly that a standard dose can become life-threatening. Meanwhile about 20% of people notice very little effect from the drug.
Our unique genetic composition means that drugs react differently in each of us. While there are new tests being developed to map our genes so doctors can determine which drugs will work and which ones will cause problems, they're very expensive today. Unfortunately most folks discover they have a problem the hard way, with a bad reaction. Doctors are slowing waking up to the fact that even "common" drugs can have issues.
While I dislike drugs as a matter of principle I recognize that there are times and circumstances when they can be very beneficial. That being said, be careful when using them. Ask questions, don't just accept that your doctor can walk on water and never makes a mistake. There's an old saying that doctors bury their mistakes. Be careful.