Lets jump into the middle of the health
Commentary by BETTY BELL
Health care costs have been zooming up and
away for so long itís hard to understand why someone smarter than this ripely
middle-aged lady hasnít had a Eureka minute in which the obvious cost solution
was revealed. The simple solution hit me last week as I kicked a soccer ball to
my closing-on- 3-year-old granddaughter, who needs only the length of the sofa
to test her skills.
Itís such an itty-bitty adjustment thatíll
do the trick. All we have to do is get a few laws tweaked here and there so that
regular citizensóthe laity, as the Pope calls usócan be certified to write our
own drug prescriptions.
This hit me as I yelped at a stab of pain
in my bum knee at the exact moment the silver-headed lady on TV yelped and
grabbed her own bum knee. Talk about symbolism symbiosis. But the TV lady merely
popped a CelebrexóI guess she keeps a supply in her pocketóand in accelerated TV
time, she recouped her silver-headed athletic prowess.
Sure, I thought. Nice for you to have your
"Ask your Doctor if Celebrex is right for
you" urged the ad. Right. Hobble to the car, hoist the kid into the car seat,
waste a gallon of gas finding a place to park, sit in the waiting room the
standard 45 minutes, and then ask if Celebrex is right for me.
I already knew Celebrex was right for me.
The ad graphically depicted my symptoms and it showed the simple cure. What I
wanted to do, and right that minute, was make my painful way to the pharmacy and
write myself a prescription.
Thatís when I had my epiphany. Why should
the doctor be the middleman in the prescription business? He gets his drug
information from the pharmaceutical repóone of those city-suited,
briefcase-toting types emerging from the doctorís inner sanctum long past your
appointment time. Itís estimatedówell, OK, itís my estimateóthat only 37 percent
of the folks in the waiting room reading magazines youíd never buy are already
bona fide or soon-to-be patients. The rest are drug reps, equipment suppliers,
investment brokers, and maybe an occasional Mercedes salesman.
What we need is a dramatic new niche in
health care for those of us willing to complete an intensive three-or-four-week
pharmaceutical course and earn the "Citizen Prescription License." Itís time,
fellow and future invalids and cripples, to take charge of how this huge chunk
of health care is divvied out. And itís propitious that the pharmaceutical
companies, who preach 24/7 about their new miracle drugs, are exactly the right
place to start. With their armies of lobbyists theyíre perfectly positioned to,
get the Citizen Prescription License bill passedóall they have to do is get on
the phones and call in their chips from their sort-of-under-contract
We arenít told everything we need to know
about a drug in a 30-second ad, so, of course, we have to learn crucial things,
details like possible serious side-effects. At a million bucks a second, those
arenít the things an ad dwells on. I found out about possible serious adverse
reactions to Celebrex in the self-study program I started right after I realized
that a major solution to health care costs is to offer pharmaceutical courses
Under Celebrex I read about "edema/fluid
accumulation, erosion of stomach lining with silent bleeding, gastrointestinal
bleeding, anemia, kidney function decline, and liver function changes with
possible severe reactions (rare)."
And guess what happened. Since I started
my self-study program Iíve decided I wonít write myself a prescription for
Celebrex after all. In addition to the above listed catastrophes, the reference
book details 11 "CAUTION" items, and, writ in bold like that, they captured my
attention. Number one, for instance: "The FDA requires a warning noting that
people who have three or more alcoholic drinks a day may have increased risk of
stomach bleeding if they also use NSAIDS (problems may also occur with lower
alcohol use)." How about that little zinger in parenthesis? You take a Celebrex
so youíll be able to bend your legs into a chair at the dinner table in
comparative comfort, drink maybe just one little old glass of wine, and then
your stomach starts to bleed? I donít know how you Band Aid a seeping stomach.
And number eight? "These medicines may
cause fluid retention, complicating high blood pressure or heart failure
treatmentóthis effect may generally be managed by an inexpensive and
well-tolerated water pill (diuretic) such as low-dose hydrochlorothiazide." Iím
not about to sign on for a 19-letter pill I canít pronounce and can only spell
with intense copy care. Iíll stick with ibuprofen.
And therein lies the beauty of the Citizen
Prescription License. When we ordinary citizens take on this responsibility, a
lot of us are going to opt NOT to prescribe to the latest miracle drug we saw on
TV. Scares the heck out of me, the stuff Iím finding out.
The drug companies will have to slash
their "Be bionic" TV ads after we know "the rest of the story". We pay for that
24/7 spiel, you know, and with our new savvy, those ads will fade into the
sunset like the Marlboro Man.
Hereís the plan: Write to Larry Craig back
there in the U.S. Senate. Put some pressure on him. Itís not totally impossible,
you know, that heís one of those sort-of-under contract congressmen. And then
get your bumper sticker: YES TO CITIZEN PRESCRIPTION LICENSES! When great
numbers of us hang our licenses on the wall and figure out what drugs we really
needóand dareóto take, watch health care costs plummet like a thermometer in a