Medicine is not my forte. Ralph was the one who always followed a strict regimen of vitamins and minerals. I can’t tell you how many bottles of women’s vitamins ended up half-used before I threw them out. I can’t even remember to take my calcium chews, even though they are chocolate flavored (well, a wan shadow of chocolate flavor). So I am not the best person to be in charge of someone else taking medicine. But I am now the filler of Ralph’s seven-day prescription reminder box.
Sixteen months ago, when Ralph was first diagnosed, our doctor prescribed donepezil, the generic name for the drug many newly diagnosed MCI or early Alzheimer’s patients take—the most common brand name is Aricep. No one claims donepezil cures Alzheimer’s, and the many studies on its efficacy seem inconclusive about whether it actually slows down the symptoms. But as soon as Ralph started on the drug, his symptoms stopped getting worse. And although this is not always the case for donepezil, he had no side effects.
About eight months ago, we added Namenda to Ralph’s routine. Namenda, which is the brand name for the generic memantine, complicated our schedule because it had to be taken twice a day. That second pill was hard to remember, for Ralph and me both. But again there were no side effects, and as much as he says he hates taking pills, Ralph felt the combination of Namenda, donepezil and escitalopram, brand name Lexipro—which his psychiatrist prescribed to help Ralph’s mood—was beneficial
About six months ago, a new once-a-day version of Namenda suddenly became available. Although our doctor said the drug company was manipulating the market because Namenda’s patent was running out, we were thrilled. One set of pills a day made life so much easier. I still was the one who filled the pill boxes, but Ralph became a champ at remembering to take his pills, and I got out of the habit of reminding him.
Until last week.
When I contacted our on-line pharmacy for refills, I was told there was a manufacturer’s supply problem. No renewal of once-a-day Namenda for at least a month or two, maybe longer. I called the local chain drug store; Ralph will not let me order his drugs from our independent pharmacy where the pharmacist knows him. No once-a-day Namenda was available there either but they had plenty of twice-a-day. I called the doctor’s office; the nurse said other patients had been calling with the same problem and she would check into the situation. Two days later she called back and said to go back to twice-a-day.
I ordered the pills, filled the boxes and told Ralph we were back to twice a day. That was Wednesday. Thursday he took all three A.M. pills but forgot the P.M.. Namenda and was asleep by the time I noticed. Yesterday, I had to leave the house early and he forgot his A.M. doses, but did take his P.M. Namenda. Today I handed him his A.M. pills with his morning coffee. And as soon as I post here, I am going downstairs to remind him, it’s time for the P.M. Namenda.
We’ll get the new/old routine down eventually but I would love to know what’s behind the sudden shortage and why we’re being held hostage by the pharmaceuticals.