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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Political Nonsense

Another American Presidential debate season is upon us. The air is filled with promises and hope of magical things like nationally regulated health care, affordable drugs, greater access to doctors, happy little bunnies hop-hop-hopping at your feet and cute little birds extolling the virtues of daily life in our wonderful nation. I inhale big lung-fulls of hope and promises until I notice the cancer starting to choke my lungs as the lies in disguise poison me like so many chlorofluorocarbons nibbling away at the ozone layer. That reminds me, I need to buy more sunscreen....

Some promises are being fulfilled by el corpo pharmacia. Easy access to urgent medical care has been a rising trend for all retail pharmacy outlets. Sure there are limits to what can be treated at these urgent care outlets but they help ease the strain on an already overstressed emergency room system. Keep the emergency room for those who really need it: the mangled, the attacked, the coronary events needing immediate attention, broken bones, torn muscles and ligaments, etc. Applause for the initiative, although profit driven but what isn't these days, to ease the pressures on overflowing ERs nationwide.

Another promise being fulfilled by el corpo pharmacia is affordable medications. On the one hand many corporations are offering various pricing incentives or discount plans for cash paying consumers. On the other hand this is choking the life out of the mom and pop pharmacies who cannot survive the competition, piss poor insurance reimbursement rates, super slow payments from medicare and medicaid, and higher replacement costs for medications. Even buying co-ops don't make much of a dent in replacement costs. It is very disheartening that in the "land of opportunity" we slowly but surely cannibalize every independent business. I have worked with several pharmacists who sold their business and now work for McDruggie's. It is a disheartening sacrifice for job security in a rapidly crashing economy.

My favorite thing to hear from politicians that makes me pee my pants with laughter is not to buy drugs from anywhere other than the U.S. of A. This comes right off of the Food and Drug Administration's Website:

FDA's Main concern: Safety
A growing number of Americans obtain their medications from foreign locations, often seeking out suppliers in Canada. But FDA cannot ensure the safety of drugs bought from these sources.

Such a broad statement gives me a fit of the giggles. It should have been worded better. I have no doubt that legitimate pharmacies in Canada are dispensing the same medications that my pharmacy is. The FDA statement conjures the image of Snidely Whiplash in a lab coat pouring tablets from a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it into a medication vial then Dudley Doright rides in on his trusty steed to bust up the operation and somewhere along the line has to avoid a train. Damn, that reminds me how old I am but the Dudley Doright Ripsaw Falls theme ride at Universal Studios in Orlando sure is fun...if you go sit in the front...and take a lot of quarters...it will all become clear when you ride the ride...here's a hint...water cannons...but I digress...and need to take a minute to plan a trip to Universal Studios. Thankfully I am within a reasonable driving distance and the Incredible Hulk roller coaster rocks!

Back to buying drugs from other sources. I am skeptical of most Internet sites that sell drugs, especially the ones only selling Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. The FDA has a task force systematically investigating and shutting down illegitimate operations. The problem here is that as soon as one is shut down one hundred more pop up. I would not purchase medications from ANY site that is not a legitimate pharmacy operation. Do your research before you buy.

Another way to combat counterfeit drugs entering the market is radio frequency identification tags. This technology is still in the research and testing phases but promises to put a big stop on illegitimate chemicals entering the retail pharmacy system. I am putting my faith in technology because it has never failed me where politicians always have.

Another reason the FDA statement and ill-informed politicians make me laugh is that many pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing their drugs in other countries and importing them back into the U.S. I have seen several bottles from Pfizer labeled Italy, Ambien labeled France, and an ever increasing number of brand and generic drugs labeled India. Maybe the politicians haven't seen the world travel FDA inspection itinerary or maybe big pharma has paid them to be ill-informed. Don't drink the political Kool-Aid kids, more and more drugs are manufactured elsewhere due to cheap labor and tax breaks from the Free Trade Agreement.

There have been warnings, such as the recent Ranbaxy debacle because their factory fell short of FDA standards and practices and is not allowed to import anything from one particular factory until standards and practices are proven to meet FDA guidelines. The point is that these factories still have to meet FDA guidelines in order to be imported back into the U.S. so the drugs are monitored but sometimes the system fails.

The moral to the rambling story is this: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Ben Franklin) and I also like to add worth it's weight in platinum (like the credit card you went over limit on to pay for your meds) so eat healthier, take time to exercise by playing sports or other family activities with your children and friends, and adopt a pet because they can help you relax and bring you great happiness and one day you may eliminate your need for blood pressure and Type II diabetes meds which will make your life suck a little less than it did the day before.