Tag Archives: prescriptions

Having a Conversation

I love my rheumatologist. I trust his advice and the decisions he makes regarding my treatment and often don’t question his reasoning behind those decisions.

But before finding him, I was subjected to the ignorance and stupidity of many doctors. I went through 5 general practitioners before I took it upon myself to do Internet research and make a first appointment with my rheumy. DrugFacts-MedicationProbThe scary common theme among those doctors was that they were willing to write out prescriptions for just about any reason. There were prescription fish oil tabs, NSAIDs, aspirin/codeine concoctions, antidepressants, and a slew of other drugs that, in hindsight, make my liver do flips just thinking about them. But ya know what? I never questioned them. I blindly trusted the “MD” after their names to mean that they were automatically right and that I shouldn’t ask questions.

January 26-February 1 is National Drug Fact Week, and I’m taking a moment to remind you that you should start a conversation with your doctor about your medications. Here are a few statistics:

  • 700,000 ER visits each year are from incorrect medication usage (Source: AmericanHealthCare.com). I don’t know the specifics of this fact and whether or not this includes people who take shared prescriptions, but it’s worth mentioning that you should never take any drug that hasn’t been prescribed to you. Shared prescriptions don’t take into account your weight, age, level of health, and drug interactions. Assuming that you’re taking your own prescription, ask your doctor questions. Ask him to repeat instructions (Do I take this daily? Twice daily? On an empty stomach? Should I not take it with orange juice? What are possible side effects?). Don’t rely on the label on the bottle to tell you what to do, and don’t feel ashamed or worried that you’re wasting your doc’s time.
  • 2/3 of all doctors’ visits end with a prescription being written (Source: TalkAboutRx.org). Clearly, I’m not telling you to develop a distrust for your doctor or that you should refuse to take your medication. But this is why a conversation is needed. Make sure the prescription that you’re being given is truly needed and not just his way of dismissing you from his office.
  • On average, at least one drug is recalled in the US each month (Source: Reuters.com). My mother was on an RA drug DrugFacts-Recalls2called Bextra for years before it was taken off the market in 2005. She claims it was the only drug that ever worked for her and controlled her pain, so of course she didn’t care about the possible side effects it could have. However, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally do some research on your medications, just to see if they’ve been under scrutiny lately. American Recall Center has a wealth of information about drug safety and current pharmaceutical lawsuits.

I’m not condemning all doctors or prescription drugs. I’m thankful for the quality of life that my doctor and medication have given back to me since my diagnosis. But I make sure to read up on every prescription I take, and I urge you to do the same.

 

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Ginger and Joint Pain

Can you tell I’m trying to be clever with my titles? Anyway…

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

I got over the funk that my last doctor’s visit put me in. I’m not happy about my current situation, but I had my pity party and now I’m sucking it up and moving on. However, a recent surgery has made me reevaluate pain and pain medication. It wasn’t anything too serious. I had a piercing when I was younger that turned into a hypertrophic scar, and I had to have it removed. I opted for an in-office surgery with local anesthetic rather than going to a surgical center and being put under anesthesia. It was a great time for me to find out that I have a slight tolerance to local anesthetic. My doctor had to stop the procedure every so often to give me multiple injections of Lidocaine.  But I’m getting off track again…

2 hours later, I was sent on my way with 30 stitches in my ear and a prescription for Codeine. I have to admit, I was a little concerned at the idea of taking it. I hate popping pain meds, even Tylenol. I’m already taking 2 prescriptions twice a day, why take anything else? Thankfully, I only needed to take one Codeine tablet a little after I got home. Otherwise I was up and doing fine the next day. But the Codeine got me thinking…can I find an alternative to dangerous and highly addictive pain medications? I’ve read a few blogs written by people with RA who have to take the strongest pain killers out there. They write about how awful the withdrawal symptoms are and how they wish they weren’t taking narcotics.

I started doing some research. I found a few great natural remedies (and I promise I will write about each and every one of them at a later time) but the one that stuck out the most was ginger. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and I thought that if I combined using it with my anti-inflammatory prescription, I would see better results than taking just the prescription alone.

Here’s what I do: I buy only fresh ginger (usually three or four roots at a time) from the local

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

supermarket to use in tea. I put a root in the fridge for use that week. I chop up the other roots into smaller 1 inch pieces and throw them into the freezer (that way I don’t have to put stress on my hands by trying to cut frozen ginger and I don’t have to worry about it rotting). When I’m ready to make my tea, I peel a piece, throw it in a mug with a green tea bag, a pour the hot water in. I put a small plate over the cup while it steeps so that the oils from the ginger don’t evaporate. Steep it as long as you normally would steep your tea. I love ginger, so I just leave it in the bottom of the cup and eat it when I’m done drinking the tea. I do this every morning, and I’ve noticed that I feel less stiff in the morning than usual. Before it used to take 10 minutes to get out of bed each morning; now I can get up as soon as my alarm goes off.

Ginger is supposed to help with more than just achy joints. I’m not a doctor so don’t take my word for any of this, but I’ve read online that ginger is good for colds and the flu, as well as morning sickness, migraines, and heartburn. Of course, check with your doctor to make sure that ginger won’t interact with any of the medication you’re on, but ginger tea is certainly worth a shot.


What the Eff?!

A Photo of My Receipt

So, I was originally planning to have this post be about natural healing, but I feel that this is a slightly more important topic. As I’ve mentioned probably a million times before, I am taking Plaquenil and Celebrex to control my RA. I take Plaquenil twice a day to keep my immune system under control. The Celebrex is taken twice a day as needed, and I usually only take it on days when my inflammation levels are high and there’s a lot of pain. My doc told me it was okay to take it daily, but at $60 for a 30 day supply, I figured I’d save myself some money.

Well, I recently needed to get a refill on my prescriptions. Imagine my surprise when the pharmacy told me that it would be $160 dollars for the Celebrex! I was aware that my insurance company had bumped up my copay a bit, but really?! My Plaquenil only went from $10 to $15. Sometimes I feel like insurance and pharmaceutical companies think everybody is rich. The truth is though, that if my prescription is going to be $160 a bottle, then I need to make sure the bottle I just got lasts for the next 6 months. I’m still in school, so I only work part time. Quite frankly, this expense is worth half of my paycheck. I still have school loans and other bills to pay, and I need to somehow find a way to feed myself. I know Mom will always be willing to help, but I’m too stubborn to have other people paying for my expenses. And I’m sure as hell NOT going to charge it to my credit card, because 60 little pills aren’t worth the ridiculous amounts of interest that I’d be stuck paying.

I spoke to a friend of mine, who happens to be a pharmacist. She explained the 3-tier system that insurance companies use for determining the amount that we pay for a certain drug. She sat down with my and we checked out my insurance company’s website to see what they had Celebrex listed as. Turns out that it is a third-tier prescription (meaning the most expensive) and is also listed as “Supply Limited” for my insurance company. At that moment, it dawned on me: this week makes it exactly one year since I got my official diagnosis. When I told her this, she said that companies usually only cover a certain amount of a prescription’s cost for one year. Any longer than that, and a patient needs to pay a higher price.

However, there might be a happy ending. She said that since this is a medication I might be on for the rest of my life, my doctor may be able to contact the insurance company and get the price brought back down to what I was paying before.

This got me thinking though…I consider myself to be very fortunate. As much as the pay may suck sometimes, I have a job that gets me by. I have medical insurance (thanks to Mom, of course) that keeps me from paying full price for doctor visits and prescriptions. But what about the people who aren’t as lucky as I am? How are they supposed to buy the medication they need? Or are they just supposed to suck it up and deal with the pain in other ways? What if it’s a child with JRA who’s in pain? Tylenol and Aleve help slightly, but they aren’t strong enough to combat a full blown flare. And then of course, my thoughts turned to my boyfriend, who has HIV. If he didn’t have insurance, how could he afford to pay thousands of dollars a month for the medication that’s keeping him alive? What if his insurance company started charging him a higher copay for it?

Here’s my logic. Plants and herbs are relatively cheap, correct? And though I’m not a pharmacist and don’t have a degree in medicine or chemistry or anything, aren’t most medications made with plants? So, doesn’t that mean that in theory, it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for a single pill? I mean, generic brand prescriptions and OTCs are generally on the cheap(er) side. Does that mean that the only reason I’ll need to sell my future firstborn child to pay for this stuff is because it’s a “designer label”?

My doctor and I have had the same discussion a million times about why he won’t change my prescription. I’ll explain that in a future post. So, I’m going to ask: What would you do if your copay went up? Would you continue to buy the prescription as usual? Would you stop taking it? Have your doctor change it? Feel free to leave some comments, but be nice!


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