Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drugs & Doctors

Since losing my health insurance more than a year ago, I have been ordering my prescription medicine from overseas. As an asthmatic, I have come to rely on an inhaled corticosteroid although I admit that I need to try and wean myself, after having used this corticosteroid for about three years now, or I need to switch to a less powerful medicine than the inhaled powder that I have been using. Instead of Advair Diskus, I was forced to switch to a generic form of this drug, one made by the same company and only found outside of the US, once I began ordering my medicine from overseas. When I had health insurance, I could get a package of 60 blisters for a co-pay of $30. Without health insurance, this same drug costs $400. at Wal-Mart. Overseas, the generic form is available for $75.

Over the summer, when I experienced a cash flow problem and couldn’t make my usual bimonthly order (my original prescription called for two inhalations per day; I can control my asthma by administering only one inhalation per day), I ended up having to visit the doctor that used to treat my asthma and allergies. For the cost of an office visit, I managed to get enough free samples to last me until I could place another order overseas and wait the two weeks for delivery. Many doctors, I’ve found, are fairly easy to manipulate so that it is possible to get what one wants, at least when it comes to getting a prescription and/or free samples. This doctor’s most pressing concern was getting paid. Apparently, he thought that I wouldn’t be able to pay him as quickly as he wanted.

My wife and I have been fortunate to find a really good pediatrician in this area. My wife refers to him as “the best doctor on the planet.” For me, I haven’t found a good doctor, that is, one who takes the time to listen to me and one who seems genuinely concerned about my health, since leaving Oklahoma eleven years ago.

When my sister came to visit us in Oklahoma and to see her nephew for the first time, she brought along a nasty cold that she passed along to us. Because of the exhaustion of caring for an infant, teaching two classes, and taking two classes as a graduate student, my body didn’t have the immunity that it needed. This cold eventually became bronchitis and then pneumonia. Once I got sick enough, I began seeing a doctor who had his own clinic and his own pharmacy. During the few months I saw him, he gave me enough erythromycin to last two weeks but never enough to cure me. It wasn’t until I went somewhere else that the doctor treated me with what seemed like a more powerful antibiotic along with albuterol and a corticosteroid. My pneumonia ended up lasting about six months before I was considered free of infection. This new doctor ended up treating me whenever I was ill during the four years that I remained in Oklahoma, and recognizing my financial straits, he often gave me free samples instead of a prescription requiring that much more money.

As a sidenote, I have to add that getting pneumonia made it that much easier to remain an ex-smoker, having quit when my wife was pregnant. My sixteen year anniversary of not smoking is coming up in January.