Listen, you’re not listening to me

Late in October of 2020, my body was trying to get my attention. 

My body’s irrigation system was working too frequently . 

Basically, my internal voice was saying—“Listen, pal, you’re not listening to me. You are irrigating way too much, you need to make an appointment to see your doctor, now, not later.”

So, I did.

In early November, I had my appointment with my regular doctor. I explained my symptoms. A urine sample was taken, and the infamous check of the prostrate gland was given. I equate that test to buying a car.

The urine test revealed a slight infection, so an antibiotic was prescribed. Additionally, I was prescribed a pill designed to assist with the flow of my irrigation pipes and my slightly enlarged prostrate. Additionally, I could take an organic—saw palmetto.

Took the antibiotic for ten days, infection cleared, and I took my other meds as prescribed. 

I don’t believe the first prescription made a significant difference. But, I could tell a difference if I let my supply of saw palmetto run out.

Doctor changed my prescription, and again I didn’t see a significant change in my irrigation.

In April 2021, I had my annual physical, urine sample, blood work all good, PSA good, but in my mind I was still irrigating too much. So, my doctor made arrangements for me to see an urologist.

I had my appointment with the urologist. Urine sample good, bladder capacity test good. He found no concerns in any of my numbers sent from my general doctor. Additionally, the urologist found with the car buying test no nodules, only a slight enlargement of the prostrate normal to my age group.

The urologist is treating me for an overactive bladder. He directed me to resume taking the saw palmetto. He prescribed a new medication  and set an appointment for me to return in four weeks. The urologist did warn me that the new prescription might have sticker shock.

That afternoon, I was notified by our pharmacy that my prescription was ready. I drove to pick it up. At the counter, I gave my name, birthdate. The clerk came back to the register scanned the label, and simply said 439. 

I asked for clarification did you say $4.39 or $439.00? This time, she clearly stated $439.00. I looked at her, and politely replied, “I’m not worth that much.”

I guess my body language signaled frustration, and almost in unison, the pharmacist and the clerk informed me that the manufacturer had a coupon on line. So, I snapped a photo of the prescription label and returned home.

I applied for the coupon on-line, and printed it out. The company was spouting that consumers might qualify for receiving the first prescription free. But, I doubted that offer as I read the fine print.

When I returned to  the pharmacy with my coupon, the pharmacist could not have been more kind and patient. He took the coupon and attempted his magic at the computer. Despite his efforts, he could only lower the cost to $400.00. 

I thanked him for his time and effort, but I declined the prescription for a second time.

Back at home, I used the patient portal for the urologist to communicate that he needed to find me another drug for my over eager bladder.

Could I have paid the $400? 

Yes, but I looked at it this way.

To my knowledge, I am not dying. Even though, some days, I think God is trying to kill me with church work challenges.

Plus, I was trying to be practical. Even if this super pill worked, there was no way I would shell out $400 every 30 days.

I thought to myself what would a person do who needed an expensive medication to live, but who did not have the resources to make a purchase? I imagine many people across America find themselves in this dilemma— even with the proper health insurance programs in place.

Since late October, I have thought about a couple of things related to prescriptions.

First, I wonder who comes up with the names for the drugs? Here are the four I have encountered on my journey at this point:  Tamsulosin, Alfuzosin, Myrbetriq, and Darifenacin.

Seems to me this is a problem for consumers, especially when my pharmacy leaves a phone message:  “Your prescription that starts with the letter D is ready for pickup.”

Perhaps pharmaceutical companies should work with paint companies to name their pills. 

If like me a person is having a problem with his/her irrigation system, these paint names from Sherwin-Williams seem to be a reasonable alternative to those drug names:  Cloud Burst, Raging Sea, Fountain, Bora Bora Shore, Gulf Stream, Ebbtide, Briny.

Also, I have found that my pharmacy is overly keen to refill my prescription. I had barely completed my first 30 day supply of Tamsulosin when I was notified that a 90 day supply of my new friend, Tam, was ready for pick up. 

When I called the pharmacy to whine about the refill, here were my questions: “How does your computer generated refill brain know if Tam is working in my body? Shouldn’t a refill be determined with the me, the patient, consulting with my doctor after a thirty day trial?”

Here is the answer I received, “You don’t have to accept the refill, if you don’t want too.”

At that point, I wanted to respond: “Listen, you’re not listening to me.” 

This week in the mail, I received a slick package from the manufacturer of the $500 wonder drug (Myrbetriq).

Basically, the package contains the materials for me to keep a three day journal about my irrigation system while using their overpriced pills. 

But, also included are health tips, bladder exercises, quotes from Confucius and Ben Franklin, and catchy phrases like:  something to chew on, food for thought, and mind over bladder.

In looking at this packet, I thought to myself what a waste of resources.

 Why invest in this slick production? 

Why aren’t you using your energy and creativity to figure out how to make your $500 bottle of pills more economical to purchase?

And what is even more disappointing to me is this: the company sent this slick marketing ploy assuming that I picked up and paid the $400.00 for their pills.

Making assumptions related to a person’s health isn’t wise.

As I continue to read Beth Macy’s book Dopesick, concerns related to our health systems, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies responsible for regulation are becoming very clear:  “Listen, you’re not listening to me.”

Some of my prescription hardware photo by Bill Pike

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