Archive for December, 2011

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what, no toy?

December 7, 2011

I went to the dentist on Monday, for the first time in more than a year (my dental insurance — yay for the new job — kicked in on the first of the month).  And, for the first time in more than three years, I was pronounced cavity-free.

This is super exciting, because my teeth may as well be made of chalk for how cavity-resistant they are.  I can brush three times a day and still turn up with cavities.  Not even lying.  But this time, I’m golden (it must be the fact that there’s almost as much metal as tooth in there now).

It occurred to me to wonder today how come adults don’t get little “congrats!  you don’t have any cavities!” toys.  I feel like I would be even more excited if I got a crappy plastic puzzle or a kazoo for my oral hygiene efforts, and maybe brush just a little bit harder.

I guess the adult equivalent of the cheap toy is the saving hundreds of dollars in dental work.

And pain.  Though I hope my new dentist is a bit nicer than Steve Martin.

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monday morning bullshit alert

December 5, 2011

I’m late to the party here, but I learned something today that has me sputtering with rage:

The reason that my asthma rescue inhaler suddenly wasn’t available in generic form a few years back was that the generic version was (supposedly) damaging the ozone layer.  It contained small amounts of CFC propellant, which the EPA banned in 2008.  Here’s the EPA’s summary of the decision.

Let’s put this in perspective.  CFCs are, without a doubt, bad for the atmosphere.  But how much CFC is contained in an inhaler?  If they’re going to allow exemptions for methyl bromide pesticide use (seriously, I’m not making this shit up), they really have bigger fish to fry.

Interestingly, the wording (emphasis mine) of the methyl bromide critical use exemption policy allows for its use if:

(ii) there are no technically and economically feasible alternatives or substitutes available to the user that are acceptable from the standpoint of environment and public health and are suitable to the crops and circumstances of the nomination.

As a result of the ban on CFC-containing albuterol inhalers, inhalers using a new propellant have been developed.  These apparently are different enough from the original inhalers that they warrant new patents, meaning that until 2016, no company is allowed to produce a generic albuterol inhaler.  What does this mean?  There are no longer economically feasible alternatives to brand-name inhalers.

These things used to cost me ten bucks a pop.  Now?  My copay is upwards of forty.  The higher brand-name cost hits the insurance companies, who are happy to pass it right on to me, through high copays, premium raises, and flat-out denials of coverage.

Oh, and for those who aren’t on corporate insurance, and instead are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare?  That cost gets passed right on to taxpayers.  Congrats, guys!  It’s not like states were spending much to care for Medicaid-eligible asthmatics or anything, right?  Oh, wait.

Worse, when copays go up, patients use their medications less.  I know this anecdotally (it’s definitely true for me), but people have actually researched this, it turns out.

So in the end, we have a decision that raises costs for consumers, raises costs for taxpayers, and damages the health of patients.  Why?  So drug companies can make more money.

Rescue inhalers are the one drug every asthmatic has.  Even if patients don’t take anything else, we all have one of these because it can literally save your life.  Drug companies have a captive market, and they’re wringing it dry for every bullshit penny.