Dear pharmaceutical companies,

I’m really reliant on you guys right now. These last few weeks I’ve realised just how reliant.

You see, I need your medications to lower my immune system’s response. Your creations keep me moving. They give me the ability to get up in the morning, care for my children, walk my youngest daughter to school, go to work, attend university, use a knife and fork, cook meals, and sometimes if I’m lucky, they give me the energy to catch up with my friends and have a good time.

I need your medications to make my pain levels tolerable, and more medications to counteract the side effects of these painkilling drugs because they’re pretty hard on my stomach sometimes. I thank you for the medications that keep nausea and stomach problems at bay. I’m eternally grateful for the miracles you have created because even though I have bad days, I’m fortunate to enjoy some really good ones too.

Just a cold?

If only it was “just” a cold that I caught from one of my kids. Miss 9 had been coughing for a few weeks, and I stupidly began thinking I had dodged a bullet. All of sudden, I went downhill – high temps, wicked headaches, increased coughing and trouble breathing. After three days on antibiotics, I was worse, so I headed back to the doctor who decided I needed chest x-rays. The verdict was pneumonia, which meant more meds, and those that kept me walking and functioning like a semi-normal person were off-limits.Fast forward four weeks and I can hardly move. I have no strength and the level of pain is pretty high. Apparently I’m allowed to take my miracle meds again, and herein lies the reason for this letter. It seems when you pharmaceutical companies come up with these medical marvels, you forget the reason we need these meds. WE HAVE ARTHRITIS. And for many of us with RA, our hands are the worst affected.

Impossible packaging

Sarah S: "Open here" a letter to pharmaceutical companies about medication packaging

If you look carefully at the photo here, you’ll see the plastic tab is ripped on my medicine container. This is because, after trying to use my fingers to pull it off, I gave up and used my teeth, also without success. This isn’t the first time it’s happened with medication with a tear tab like this on it. The only way to open it is to break into it with a steak knife, which is not safe when you have deformed hands to start with.

Another issue is teeny tiny lids. I have fat fingers with no grip so I need fat lids that are easy to grip. Child-safe lids are the worst. Funnily enough, when my youngest was four years old, she could open those lids, and I couldn’t.

The silly thing is that quite often even able-bodied people need steak knives to break into packaging like this. So my question is: Why make them so hard to open? I understand that they need to be sealed, but I need the medications even to be able to open some of these things. What do I do if I can’t get into the meds? Once, embarrassingly, I had to ask my 83-year-old neighbour to help me open them. This should tell you something, surely?

Please realise that if the medications are for arthritis, or any other condition that causes disability, then we need easy-to-open packaging. I would appreciate you putting some thought into this matter.
Sincerely,

A 35-year-old trapped in an elderly woman’s body.

P.S If you’re a pharmacist reading this, perhaps you could help out by opening the lids for us. I have noticed that many will do it for older people without asking, but when you’re my age, you don’t even give it a second thought. This is something I know many thousands of us would greatly appreciate.

Editor’s note: One of our key 2017 election campaign messages relates to packaging. Find out more here and read our 2017 Election manifesto