26 December, 2014


I was staring into the abyss of my empty pill case this morning and was dumbstruck with the realisation of just how silly the medication industry is.

One of the current pills the doctor has me taking is called "Viibryd". Pharmaceutical companies come up with all sorts of catchy names to trademark and make millions billions of dollars by marketing to an unsuspecting public. I am guessing this pill got its name because it is a Vibrant Hybrid- an antidepressant that has multiple modes of action. Very clever. Almost as clever as Haldol(halt all) Zoloft(ze 'loft(free of depression) or Effexor(effects your ((mind)).

On the surface coming up with catchy names does not seem so sinister, but when you consider that these catchy names are advertised in a way similar to the catchy names and logos for toys, cartoon characters and cars, the pills start to seem a bit dark indeed.

Commercials for Zoloft and Prozac gleefully proclaim that these pills "may" correct chemical imbalances even though doctors agree there is no evidence there is one in any mental disorder and they proclaim unsubstantiated efficacies while making light of serious side effects(like suicidality and akathisia). I am not saying these pills are not effective, but having them marketed to consumers in a glib fashion, the same way cars and cartoon characters are undermines the seriousness of their industry. In my opinion, we would all be better off if these pills were studied carefully by a trained professional who would work with the patient to decide.

So back to my pills- Currently, the empty box of Viibryd is staring at me. All of its contents are in my pill case. I doubt very much that I am going to continue to take this pill because it makes me feel like I've had 4 espresso shots along with tijuana tap water, but even if I did, I would run into a second problem- the money issue.

It is perfectly understandable that the pharmaceutical industry needs money to do research for newer, more effective medications, but most people, including me can not afford a medication that costs 300 to several thousand dollars per month. Doctors blame Big Pharma. Big Pharma blames the insutance companies and the little man (you and me) gets stuck with the bill. This is all complicated by Drug Reps who focus on the positives of their drugs, overstating their efficacy in order to sell more of the new drug, a claim that, in the case of first generation anti-psychotics, for example, is not backed up by evidence.

 So what happens is that new pills are overprescribed because of drug reps who oversell the pills and people who see the TV commercials and those lucky enough to have a good insurance plan can afford the pills, while the rest of us pay ludicrous prices for medication which may not be worth it in the first place. Sometimes the more expensive pills are useful and they're definitely cheaper than a hospital stay, but with so much overprescribing of more expensive and shiny things, it is understandable that the insurance company would want to cut costs. Sometimes the new expensive pills are just rebranded versions of drugs that are going generic- a shady cost making ploy. But the problem is, the insurance company doesn't know what's going on and shouldn't be the one to make decisions on peoples health and lives.

Case in point: I was once prescribed Lamictal (a mood stabiliser used for bipolar and depression) and I took it for six months. The insurance company eventually decided I should take something older like Lithium, not realising that I could not tolerate Lithium in the slightest. Since Lamictal was $300 and my rent was $450, I paid my rent and went cold turkey off of Lamictal. Luckily I did not have a seizure coming off of Lamictal, but I experienced many vivid hallucinations and a peculiar flesh creeping sensation for weeks. It was not fun, but some are not as lucky as me.

Some get denied coverage and die or wind up back in the hospital or wind up in debt.

I don't know what Obamacare has changed. Some people say things are better now, but I'm looking at the pills and the coverage I (don't) have and I've talked to the insurance company and it really doesn't seem that much better, if it is better at all.

My doctor wants to prescribe me medications I can't afford and doesn't believe me when I say a first generation ($5) antipsychotic has less side effects for me and my list of tolerable medications is growing ever smaller.

It's really frustrating. Maybe I should come up with my own pill with a clever name and make billions of dollars off of it and then I can afford to do whatever I want.

The magic pill I need is probably free, growing in the forest off the side of an ancient Hemlock, anyway.

No comments: