The Medicine Hopper

It doesn’t surprise many people when they learn that I change medications frequently. I’m a little flakey and I like fast results. Barring the last few years, I was never on a biologic for more than a year and a half. (And, that was only one medication.)

I try a medication because I want to feel better than I currently do. I know I want to feel better and I know I can, so why wait? I am a medicine hopper. There I said it. I change medications frequently. There’re only a handful of times that I’ve waited the proper three-month period before switching. But, in most cases, it was pretty obvious that a medication would not work for me.

Changing medications

At the beginning, when we realized the methotrexate was not going to work well on its own, we added Humira. Humira was okay. It brought me up to 50 percent capacity. I was still a veterinary technician and 50 percent was not going to cut it.

Going from Humira to Enbrel

After about 6-8 months, we switched to Enbrel. That was a game-changer. I quickly shot up to 75 percent capacity. After around 18 months (which seems to be the sweet spot for these biologics), Enbrel plateaued and we made another switch - this time to Orencia.

All I have to say is WOW. We started with the self-injections and, while it managed my symptoms well (in conjunction with the methotrexate), I still experienced frequent flares. So, we switched again to the IV infusions. WOW again. You can read my more detailed account in a previous article. Orencia was it. I found my medication.

Note that these hops all occurred within a 5-year time frame.

Some challenges along the way

But, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In 2015, the Orencia infusion (and, well, all my meds, for that matter) cut out. We made drastic changes. First, we tried Xeljanz. I think I was only on it for two weeks (possibly less). I may have been eating tic-tacs for all I know: 0 percent effectiveness.

We jumped to Actemra. I was only on it for a month. Within days of my first infusion, I experienced such intense jaw pain I couldn’t open my mouth. Additionally, I felt a rock in my stomach. No nausea, no pain - just the feeling of a massive weight in my abdomen.

Certain medications didn't work with my body

Those symptoms were so extreme that my rheumatologist took me off the IV days after my second infusion, which I still remember. The IV stopped halfway through. There was no clot or other blockage and we even placed the IV in a different spot. My body downright rejected the medication. In comparison, even at the slowest drip-rate, my body sucks in the Orencia like it is dehydrated.

I don't want to wait three months

I don’t know that I’m alone in this. I know there is a grace period for switching medications because it does take some time to build up effectiveness. But, I don’t want to wait three months to feel better!

Anyways, I feel like if I’m not experiencing any difference in symptoms “immediately,” I kind of already know whether the med will work for me, right? Why do I need to wait so long to try something new?

Make a decision with your doctor

That being said, there is a reason why they recommend waiting three months before trying new medications and everyone should talk to their doctor to make a decision based on their own healthcare needs. This is just my experience and journey of trying to find the right cocktail of medications for my disease management.

How long do you wait before switching medications? What triggers a medication change for you?

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