For those of you who have been following the dramatic serial telenovella that my life has lately become, there is mixed news on that front. The good news first: I'm going back to work. I'll be able to do a little something about the economic deficit I've gotten into.
But the bad news far outweighs the good: I am no better now than when I first got sick. I just hope that I am in a better position to manage my symptoms, and we all know that hope is not a viable strategy when action is necessary. Please explain to me how this could possibly happen in the nation of "the world's best medical care"! But I cannot remain out of work any longer. Even if my house is made of the rough equivalent of bricks, the wolf is outside preparing to huff it and puff it and blow it all down – or at least me out of it. Whether or not my return to gainful employ succeeds depends on some of the following issues being resolved.
The title I chose for this post refers in part to the fact that the drugs prescribed to me by my doctors appear to work against each other. One counters the stated benefit of another, and in one case actually aggravates the original condition for which I am being treated. I was thinking — briefly — that if Obama were to achieve his planned digitization of our medical records, then just maybe my doctors would be able to better coordinate my care. But after Microsoft established technology centers in China and India — training them to do work formerly done by American programmers- I have no faith that such a system would be trustworthy. The hackers in these countries are already using the knowledge they have gained from the internals of how Windows and other software works against us. So if the Pentagon systems and those of their contractors aren't safe, why should I believe that my own records won't be abused in some manner? It's bad enough that my records aren't even safe from abuse at the hands of my own insurance company!
But that foul firm isn't the only problem I face. Another which directly affects my premise is that the system is out to realize Rep Alan Grayson dictum pronounced a few months ago regarding the Republicans' alleged health care reform plan. I got sick, but as I am not about to die quick! I'm wondering if just maybe [snark] they aren't trying to hasten the report of my demise [/snark].
But seriously. What good is the prescription of drugs whose side effects just might be as bad or worse than the malaise they are intended to treat? Mrs. Realist is of the staunch opinion that my doctor is unable to do anything except refer me to specialists (I have to go see yet another one soon) and to prescribe pills. It could be so, considering that his training has been grossly affected by the financial influence drug companies.
How so, you ask? One reason was recently revealed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They note that industry-funded doctor education courses offered at University of Wisconsin-Madison "often present a slanted view by favoring prescription medications over non-drug therapies and by failing to mention important side effects" — something to which I can attest. I have had to do the research regarding my prescribed drugs on my own. In one case, the company literature enclosed in the sample package is full of "not yet tested" statements, which -when they occur under the headings "drug interactions" and "side effects"- doesn't cause one to have a great deal of confidence that the FDA is even doing its job.
Before I continue, allow me to state that my doctor is NOT a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. You might want to look for a doctor who recently graduated from Stanford, as they have "loosened" their connections" to such corporate manipulation.
I know my doctors are being visited by drug company representatives. Most of what I have had to take over the past two months have been company samples. With these, I haven't been given the usual patient instructions that any reputable pharmacy generally gives you with your prescription. I'm left to looking these things up on the Internet – which again brings up a reason why our medical records on line could be worrisome. What if one of these drugs proved to interact with another in some fatal manner? What if the exposed company's product was handed out as a sample? Why wouldn't some unscrupulous company not want to scrub the records to limit their legal liability? Or what if a competitor was to alter the information page of a certain drug? Just how would you know if you can trust that what you are given to take for your illness won't harm you in some way? What if such information was suppressed, especially if it exposed such dangers?
But back to the company rep visits. Even they aren't able or willing to do very much except drop off large amounts of samples and related literature, and leave a card and a quick "call me if you have any questions" before the doctor has to get back to practicing his profession (why does that old joke about "doctors practicing medicine" come to mind right about now?). Just how much has the doctor learned through such a brief "let's do lunch"-type contact about the product he then freely dispenses? I can personally attest that this is how these rep meetings can go. When I was in last, I saw the complete meeting between a Pfizer rep and the doctor, which went just about as fast as I described it. Upon further research, it seems that this brief face-to-face method is the accepted practice.
It isn't just the doctors, whose ill-informed drug dispensation might cause me mortal distress. It turns out that drug companies are paying for the vast majority of basic and clinical research done in the United States to verify that their drugs are safe and effective. And even though this last linked article dates back to 1993, The Buffalo News just reported on February 28, 2010 that thousands of physicians get paid by pharmaceutical companies to teach doctors and nurses about the latest medications. It is still an ongoing issue.
It really is bad enough that our insurance companies interfere with our doctors' practice on our behalf. I myself have had my insurance company ORDER me to find a drug different from that prescribed by my doctor because the prescribed drug was "too expensive". How come the Tea Baggers are so worried about the government supposedly having "death panels" when it's clear that these functions are already being practiced by the insurance companies?
But as bad as that issue is, now the drug companies are known to be getting into the act (HOT-cha-cha-cha!). One drug I was just prescribed is allegedly an improvement of a previous drug no longer in production due to efficacy issues. This "new and improved version" is less-costly to produce, yet the retail prices are higher than those of the drug it replaces. The word on the Internet is that the chemical changes from the antecedent formula could be performed in any college chemistry lab. Yet it is marketed as if it was a completely new drug, probably to bury even more of the profits under the heading of R & D. Worse yet, this specific company-sampled drug -which produced some nasty and health-threatening side effects in me almost immediately- is already known to do so in ways worse than the drug it replaced. Yet the FDA -while still under the Bush administration- approved this drug almost pro forma with minimal required testing. There are only 23 papers currently published regarding the use of this drug in the available literature, so I'm sure that the Obama administration will also dodge their public health responsibilities under the excuse that the peer-review jury is still out. After all, they have hardly taken on the insurance companies, so why would we expect him to do battle with Big Pharma?
And what are We, the People to do about this corporate stranglehold on the American health care snake oil racket? Some reasonable topics to open the discussion are listed here, which might go some of the distance into addressing the left-handed defense of the entire industry as presented by a doctor here.
But whatever comes about, it better happen soon. Like me, the states are running out of money to pay for things like public health (among other necessary things!). Frank Rich of the New York times writes that Obama is about out of time to produce something that the public will see as being a real asset to them. He's up against a tough audience, because as Rich reports, "80 percent of the country believes that 'nothing can be accomplished' in Washington" (see: Ipsos poll conducted February 26-28, 2010) [PDF]. That's what Obama and the Democrats get for wasting an entire year plus playing pattycake with tar-baby obstructionists who have no intention of putting meaningful ideas into the discussion. The voters are not likely to be very friendly to Obama over this, for as Frank notes: "The G.O.P. would be able to argue this fall, not without reason, that the party holding the White House and both houses of Congress cannot govern."
I sure am glad that I chose not to give Obama my vote. I now don't have to take on the culpability of falling for supporting his pack of liars and incompetents. Yes, I agree that McCain would have been more of a corporate sell-out than Obama has been. So what real choice did we have? Either way, We the People got screwed but good. I can just say that I didn't vote for it, because I didn't vote for McCain either. I wish there was a way to change things.
Speaking of screwed, allow me to add gross insult to my chronic injury. My employer has just informed me that they made a mistake regarding my pay. They had issued me a check for a week that I didn't work. And while they cannot explain how that happened, I HAVE TO REIMBURSE THEM IMMEDIATELY UPON RETURN TO DUTY! They will accept a cashier's check for the entire amount if I should choose not allow them to go directly into my checking account to reclaim more money than they gave me (I have to repay all taxes and benefit expenses whether I got them directly or not). Who cares if I haven't GOT any funds in my account to draw upon??? This $100 billion-a-year multinational corporation must have its due from their $1000 a week not-yet-ready-to-die peasant who received in faultless error that which is undeserved! But since I've been such a good sharecropper for almost 29 years, they will generously allow me to accept them shorting my pay for me until I have repaid the company store for that which I should not have gotten in the first place. It's a good thing that the nation's starving retailers can't do business this way — yet.
All of which leaves me to close with a final thought for my primary doctor which I will share with you. To whit: Gee, Doc, I just can't IMAGINE how you can think that stress is a factor in my illness!