Studying the Medication Chart

In the first few years after I was diagnosed with asthma (well, and the latter 6 months of the 2-8 months before I was diagnosed when they told me I had “bronchitis” and “maybe mild asthma”), I found myself studying the charts of available asthma medicines on the Internet. Once my asthma had been properly diagnosed, it still took years to become what Dr. Smartypants refers to as “well controlled”—what severe asthma guidelines call well controlled, but GINA guidelines do not—by finding the right combination of medications for me. In this process, learning to be the engaged patient that I am, on a quest to breathe just a bit easier, I found myself reading GINA stepwise guidelines, and those charts mentioned above, wondering what my next step would be, wondering what my doctor would suggest next—or what I would suggest next to her.

Back to the chart, five-ish years later

It’s been a long while since I looked at the chart. In a conversation with Kat and Dia on iMessage, I began sending medication charts copied from Google Images. I realized that it had been quite a long time since i’d looked at a chart like that—basically, every available asthma medicine in Canada is kind of engrained in a chart in my brain, rather than one on Google Images. As I fired off these copied pictures, I suddenly remembered that point in my life: where I was studying the medication chart with regularity, questioning what is next and which of these will help?
I think I stopped studying the chart when I realized that “it takes a village” didn’t just apply to my asthma team—it applied to my medications too. For me, being on more different inhalers, actually allows me the optimal, and lower, doses of the meds that benefit me most. And the chart doesn’t do complexities like that, but instead, it gave the mpression in those early years that I’d have 1 controller inhaler, and 1 rescue inhaler, and that was it. That was not to be—at least not for me, for now. Maybe one day!

I still like the asthma medicine chart

I still do like the chart, at least when it’s updated! The visual layout of each type of inhaler (rescue, inhaled steroid, combination, and on some, long acting bronchodilator, short and long acting anti-cholinergic—not as often used for asthma, but some still approved for use in asthma!), helps both patients and physicians see what options there are, and that there are still options left that may help. Despite this, the “linear” fashion of many charts can be frustrating as a patient, when say different drugs in the same class work better or worse, or when—like me—you learn that you need a specifically tweaked regime of medicine. And, oh yeah, these charts usually only cover inhalers—anti-leukotrienes, anti-IgE (Xolair), allergy shots, older drugs like theophylline, and new drugs like biologics? Well, they’re not inhaled, so they don’t make the chart.
However, I still maintain that it’s helpful to see everything in one place. And, when I was switching to a new ADHD medication in mid-August, I consulted a similar chart of ADHD medicines approved in Canada, to compare the type of medications, and their duration of action in controlling symptoms. Much the same as the asthma medicine charts, this helped me to maximize my research time by starting me off with everything basic I needed to know right in front of me—kind of a throwback to when I was trying to get my asthma under control and my meds sorted, really!

Have you ever looked at inhaled medication charts for asthma? Do you find them helpful in determining next steps—or step-downs!—in your asthma care?

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