Monday, July 6, 2009

To The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror: Just Beat It

A few days ago, I the had occasion to refill my Synthroid prescription by transferring it from Rite Aid to CVS to take advantage of a $25 gift card promotion. When I called CVS, the pharmacy personnel did not ask for the Rite Aid prescription number, or any of my identifying information except for my name. I volunteered my phone number for their use in case there was a problem.
And there was, but I received no message to that effect and was informed at the counter, at pick up time, that because the NDC number on their stock bottle did not match the one for the prescribed medication, my insurance had rejected the refill. I asked for a redo, and everything went through fine. Obviously, at least one digit had initially been entered incorrectly to generate the rejection, and had I not had insurance, that most likely would not have been caught and I would have walked out with pills in hand, albeit the wrong ones.
As I checked out I was asked "only one?" Yup, at almost age 55, only one, and in a decreasing dosage at that. Behind the clerk, a full wall was devoted to baskets filled with white bags of pills, sorted alphabetically, with many of the letters taking up more than one. In the quest for better living through chemistry, I was definitely the odd woman out.
This brief scenario, which due to the sheer volume of business reported, most likely repeats itself many times daily throughout the country, is illustrative of some of the problems endemic in our health care system. A dispensing pharmacy with little interest in accuracy associated with a corporate rapaciousness for sales. Without the review of insurance, which in this economy is becoming scarcer, noting that a just released CDC study found private coverage at a 50 year low, and which among the well off was always an optional need to begin with, an ease to get any drug you want, and maybe some you don't, a glaring and gaping gap in quality and quantity control. And if you are among the increasingly "fortunate few," your physician undoubtedly knows that and will prescribe accordingly, primarily "cut and drug." While perhaps not at the reported "Wacko Jacko" or "street junkie" levels, there are many ordinary people, driving around, barely functional, seriously doped up, which is just plain scary and dangerous, for them and for the rest of us as well. Yet we increasingly accept that as the standard, and as the envelope gets pushed further, prescription pill dependence could easily become the new normal. The FDA's recent action with respect to acetaminophen, OTC and RX, is encouraging, but just a baby step, against that direction.
For more than a week, we have publicly mourned Michael Jackson, and begun to engage in the debate over a major overhaul of our medical system at the same time. Perhaps we should pause to connect the two as a teachable moment and look at "The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror" and how closely our seemingly more pedestrian lives parallel the celebrity we have been feasting on in terms of what we consume. As we celebrate July 4th, perhaps it is time for us individually, and as a country, to declare another kind of Independence Day, from incentivizing a continuation of our pill popping ways. If we do, that could be the most enduring legacy of the life of this very troubled, but talented entertainer who appears to have been the "King of Pop" in a very real and nonmusical sense of the term. He did not kick the habit in time; to properly honor him, perhaps we should "Just Beat It."

Karen Ann DeLuca