15 January 2009

Axe the FDA and save me money

Someone very close to got very sick not too long ago, lets call him... Yewles. But, because he recognized all the symptoms, he knew exactly what was wrong with him. Yewles had a sinus infection. Not that big of a deal right? Wrong. He needs to go on anti-biotics. But guess what? Despite the fact that he's a mature adult, has a college degree, can get drafted to go to war, knows exactly what's wrong with him and what he needs to take, the only way for him to get the anti-biotics is to pay a doctor (who probably won't be able to schedule an appointment for 2 weeks) to write him the prescription.

But it gets better, because Yewles doesn't have health insurance. Assuming he has the money to pay for the drugs themselves, he probably doesn't have the $100-$1000 dollars for the visit to the doctor. Let's assume Yewles has health insurance, but that it's a plan most working Americans have, like a typical HMO. He's going to call a Doctor that he finds on his insurance company's website, and the Office Manager there is going to say "Oh, I'm so sorry you poor bastard, we're not accepting any more patients from your insurance company". Don't scoff at me and claim I don't know what I'm talking about, I used to work in medical billing, I know all too well.

Luckily, my friend wasn't in the overpopulated metropolis of New York at the time, so he was able to find a clinic not crowded enough to see him the same day and get his prescription. But even still, why is this step necessary? All of my med school prison friends who read this will say "its necessary to ensure that a knowledgable physician gives an accurate diagnosis for a patient's illness" or "all things being equal, when you think there's something wrong with you, wait 10 days, and it will probably fix itself". But what about the case of my friend? If the doctor has already asked him to describe these symptoms once before and given a diagnosis, it stands to reason that the second time around, with the same symptoms, its gonna be the same damn diagnosis. No offense to my friends, but in this case, the doctor is serving no other purpose than a middleman.

According to FDA.gov, The Food and Drug Administration as we know it today was created in 1906 to combat misleading marketing, and hazardous food products. Yes, at the time, this was a necessary and important service provided to Americans. There will always be products that need to be regulated by FDA. Prescription Drugs however, are a different animal. According to Forbes, the Proposed 2009 budget for the FDA is 2.4 $Billion. You know, in the grand scheme of how much money our government wastes, that's actually not that much money. But, at the same time, there are so many recalls on Drugs that the FDA approves, that they have a fucking RSS feed of the recalls! Really.

Anyone who's been to Europe knows that for many minor ailments, you can just walk into a pharmacy and get exactly what you need. Pharmacists there are accustomed to helping people recognize or diagnose minor infections and sicknesses. This saves an unneccessary trip to the doctor. Why can't we do this here? Despite my provacative title, I don't think the FDA in its entirety should be abolished, merely the power to wholly deny access to a well tested, long used drug to treat a simple problem. In this model, we would definately have to depend on pharmacists to only dispense anti-biotics when they were needed, and use discretion with drugs that can be abused for recreational purposes. But I mean, come on, there are handfuls of Doctors out there who aren't even doing this. If you want a Pseudophedrine, many places will already require that you show an ID, and will only allow you to purchase a certain amount. Why can't this done for some other drugs? Why must we be so stringent with drugs that are so commonplace?

People want to talk about healthcare for all americans. In effect, this strict policy on drug prescriptions is unfair to poorer families who can't afford to go to their family doctor every other week. By requiring a doctor to prescribe a prescription, you are requiring a patient to pay more money. There is no way around this. So, instead of requiring me to spend money, require me to describe my symptom to a well trained pharmacist, who can make a copy of my ID, and give me the damn drugs.

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