by Alex Bennett
I have been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome for years. While not a serious problem, it’s annoying to me and—due to the flatulence it produces—those around me. This is what you get for becoming older. It’s probably where the term “old fart” comes from.
My doctor prescribed Elavil, an old-line tranquilizer that, in small doses, can help with IBS. But it made me drowsy. If taken before bedtime, you sleep like a baby, but when you wake up the next day, you lack energy. That’s why I stopped taking it. Predictably, the IBS came back.
Recently I asked my doctor if there had been any new advances in the three years since he’d originally prescribed Elavil. He mentioned something called Xifaxan—an experimental therapy that showed promise. In small doses it stops diarrhea. In large doses—two tablets three times a day for ten days—it seems to stop IBS. I jumped at the chance for a prescription.
When I got to my pharmacy, I was told my medical plan would cover only $4 of the total bill, which came to—grab tightly onto whatever you’re holding—$316! Was this some kind of scam between the insurance company and the drug maker? My physical relief was being held for ransom!
I had to have Xifaxan and the promise that it held for me. However, standing between me and blessed relief was the drug dealer on the corner called a pharmacist. Treating IBS has become the geriatric equivalent to scoring smack. Pharmacists are America’s new drug dealers.
When I was younger, I never got sick. Sure, I did drugs and plenty of them, but that’s not the kind of drugs we’re talking about. Still, I have to say, the dealers I knew in those days were infinitely more honest than these thieves.
Don’t give me any crap about how much it costs to develop this stuff. That’s like a doctor telling you how much it cost him to go to medical school. He broke even a long time ago, and so did drug makers. Now they’re cashing in. Besides, most drug research is sponsored by the government. Big Pharma actually gets our tax money to develop a product that they then charge us up the ass for—literally, in my case.
My girlfriend had a similar problem. She needed Nexium, an acid reflux medicine to counteract a bone medicine she was taking that had a corrosive effect on the stomach. Since her plan wouldn’t cover it, she was advised to take over-the-counter Prilosec. But that drug wasn’t effective in treating the problem. Who knows more about what is good for a patient—a doctor or some pencil pusher at an insurance company? Clearly, it’s time to reform healthcare.
But wait a minute! There’s a hitch. The insurance companies have a lot of money to fight universal healthcare. You know where they got it? From you and me and those damn fucking monthly premiums. We all make a bet.We bet that we’re going to get sick, and they bet we won’t. The problem is when they lose, they often find a way to disqualify you. On the street they’d get their legs broken, or worse, but in this bizarro world we’re the ones who suffer!
Our newly minted President claims he wants to change the medical system. He says he wants to make insurance “affordable” for everyone, but the words affordable and single payer don’t belong in the same sentence. It’s all or nothing. You either have universal healthcare or you don’t. There can be no compromise on this.
When are we going to realize it is our duty as human beings to make sure no one dies by the side of the road. When I hear about people dying of cancer because they couldn’t afford the medicine they needed or because their free clinic had closed due to lack of funding, it makes me want to scream. How can we do this to each other?
If we don’t get universal healthcare now, then when? Every day we fail to address this problem, more Americans die of systematic neglect. The day must come when the crooks running the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries are no longer able to profit at the expense of the sick and dying. It’s time to rebel. Let’s run the bastards out of town. Meanwhile, excuse me. It’s time for me to take two of my $5.20 pills. Gee, they’re so small.