Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Good Doctor

So today I took Alex for a checkup. Her outrageously expensive asthma medication runs out next week and we needed a doctor's order to renew the prescription. There's a new general practitioner in the small town nearby, and we've been looking for a GP closer to home, so I took Alex there today, figuring we'd give the guy a try.

He was wonderful. At nine, Alex is at the age where she's a bit more body conscious, and he put her at ease during the examination by talking to her about her hobbies. He pronounced her healthy afterwards and then he and I began discussing her history of asthma.

The doctor decided, based on Alex's records, that renewing the prescription was warranted. As he jotted down the order in his doctor's scrawl, I commented on how expensive the Advair was, and how I felt fortunate to be able to scrape together the $150 a month it took to purchase the medicine. I told him I'd gone on the GlaxoSmithKline website and found that Advair wasn't one of the medications listed in the free-or-reduced-cost drug programs the company offers to the uninsured.

The doctor rolled his eyes and said that was because drug companies were greedy.

Excuse me? Did I hear right? A doctor criticizing drug companies? Of course, I asked him to elaborate and he told me that the reason Advair wasn't offered through the programs is because there' s no competing generic. With no compeitition, GlaxoSmithKline can charge whatever they bloody well please.

I asked him what uninsured people who couldn't afford the medicine did. He shook his head sadly and said they either took half the prescribed dose or risked going without. I told him I hoped I'd never have to make that choice, but as a freelancer I know how work can be there one day and not the next.

"Hold on a sec," he said, and left the room. A few minutes later he came back with four samples of Advair - a four month supply. I was stunned.

"In case you run out of work," he said. "You seem like a really caring mother. I'd hate to see you have to make that kind of choice."

I almost wanted to cry, but managed a smile and a 'thank-you' instead. I paid my $93 bill and walked out with my $300 worth of medicine for my little girl. My faith in the medical profession has been restored, and we have a new family doctor.

My concerns prior to the visit weren't completely unfounded. My editing work has dried up, I've finished my lucrative summer screenplay project - and used the money to renovate my house and purchase a much needed laptop and professional grade camera. Not a whole lot of money is left over. And not a whole lot of work was on the horizon.

Then within an hour - via cellphone - I'd gotten two great assignments and learned a payment I'd been hoping would arrive had done just that.

Life is funny. Just when you think you need to worry - a futile thing to do - something happens and you find some little glimmer of hope. And hope, today, was just what the doctor ordered.


Vile Blasphemer said...

What a great doctor!

Morgan said...

Robert? Is that you?
If so, I've missed you. If not then welcome, Vile Blasphemer. I can only hope this is the beginning of an Unholy Alliance.
Yes, the doctor was great. A great physician. He made my day.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so surprised. Doctors probably aren't different from anybody else. They probably appreciate people who are trying to help themselves. He may have reacted differently if you'd gone in there as a welfare mom acting like you were entitled to free medicine.

Morgan said...

Oh, I don't know, anon. I only know he was extremely gracious to me, and I was positively floored by what he did.

I don't think he'd hold it against some sick kid if their parent demanded free medicine. He'd likely give it to them for the sake of their child. I believe he's just one of those doctors who really cares about his patients.

Roland said...

Those are the only kind of doctors we stick with. The ones who are there because they love the job, not because they love the money.

nunnsuch said...

I've had incredible experience with doctors giving me free medications when I've needed them. I'm to the point now, though, that I'm reluctant to ask, since i have very good health insurance and I feel like there are others who can use the limited freebies more than I can. My doc likes to talk about the medical industry and I've asked him about physicians smoozy relationships with pharmaceutical reps, etc. He argues that the closer you are to the reps, sure, you're going to get the heavy sales pitch, but he's found he's also been privy to better information on drugs and knows a lot more about them. Another interesting thing about this doc is that he chooses to spend plenty of time with his patients, explaining things in detail, answering lots of questions, getting to know his patients. He says he sees fewer patients on a given day, but he says he's seen a great improvement in the progres of their health since he's started practicing medicine this way. I can't remember ever seeing him when i did not spend at least 30 minutes one-on-one with him. And it's often more like an hour. The price? Sometimes i have to wait 1-2 hours past my appointment time, but it's worth the wait. And I've learned to call on appt day and see how his sked is running and can adjust my arival time. There are some greater doctors out there and I'm so glad Alex has found one. Sometimes it takes a long time.

Vile Blasphemer said...

Hmm... I don't think I've ever been a Robert...

Suspect said...

Doctors get free medicines all the time, and for this very reason: to give out to anyone they like. So it's not really surprising.

What IS surprising is his honesty about the pharma industry. We need more people like that.

Erik said...

There you go again! Using fuzzy math.

300 should most likely be 600. A detail that changes nothing about what you wrote but I thought you needed someone to nitpick an otherwise flawless post. And what can I say other that I am here for ya! (o=

Morgan said...

Erik, it wasn't fuzzy math, but I can't blame you for thinking so, due to an ommission on my part. The doctor said it was OK for Alex to take the medicine once a day now, so the normal 60-dose pack we get from the pharmacy will now last two months, instead of one.

He gave me four samples, with thirty doses each, which is like two full packets, a $300 value since each packet is $150. They'll last us four months because she only has to take half the dose now due to the fact that she's been symptom free for so long.

But as you said, either way it was very nice. And his changing the we Alex has to take it will mean more savings for us in the long run by dropping our Advair cost from %150 down to $75.

Does that make sense?

Morgan said...

I'd imagine the closer they are to the reps the easier it is for them to get freebies for their patients, too. It didn't take anything out of Dr. Gracious' pocket to give us the medicine, and now I'll bring my whole family to him, so that kind of gesture pays off.

Morgan said...

Sorry, VB. I thought you were a reincarnation of Southside Rabbitslayer. He's linked off my blog, and is pretty much the Raging Atheist.
I like your blog, though. I've kind of missed Robert's perspective on things since he had a rather public breakdown.
Keep blogging and try not to crack on us, OK?

Morgan said...

"What IS surprising is his honesty about the pharma industry. We need more people like that."

Amen, Suspect.

Morgan said...

"Those are the only kind of doctors we stick with. The ones who are there because they love the job, not because they love the money."

Roland, his office is really modest and he was a very unassuming guy who was very chatty and friendly with all the patients, and it was a mixed bag. Even his staff was really nice. They were all dressed in halloween-themed scrubs. The nurse who did the intake said the doctor wears orange ones around Halloween, despite the fact they've all told him he looks like an escapee from a nearby prison.

Vile Blasphemer said...

I'm far too supple to crack.

Andrea said...

Nothing like having a doctor who doesn't "go with the flow" just for the hell of it. With my first son, I was so grateful to have a doc who believed that most episiotomies were unnecessary.

(btw, I added you to my links)

Shrubbery said...

Having made use of more doctors than I care to remember I'd be willing to say most are decent bloats that work their asses off.

How's it going Auntie Morg?

nunnsuch said...

I also know that my beloved doc has paid for patients' meds out of his own pocket.
Now the other issue: do we really need all these meds anyway? Are there better alternatives? Can some of these be just last resorts, not first options? But there is no denying that folks are living much longer thanks to things like blood pressure medicines and I would kill someone if they tried to take away my Zyrtec!

Morgan said...

Nunnsuch, I love the drug company ads showing formerly sick people running through fields of flowers, magically transformed into healthy people after taking one of the pharmaceutical companies magic pill. Then comes the speedy voice over: "Use caution when taking Euphoroflex if you breathe oxygen. If you experience an erection so turgid that you can hammer nails with your penis, seek medical treatment. Common side-effects are headaches, skin rash and explosive diarrhea."
So in a word, yes. The cure is often worse than the disease. But the FDA rushes stuff like Vioxx and Celebrex through without a thought while warning us against natural remedies and stuff imported from Canada.
I can't say all meds are bad. Advair has saved Alex's life. But when I turn on the television I'm bombarded with ads for drugs to help deal with yellow toenails, menopause, depression and irritable bowels. Did our granfathers and grandmothers have these same problems? Were they healthier? Or did they just see the things we medicate for all part of getting older?

Morgan said...

Shrubbery, Your Auntie Morg is doing well and has no complaints to speak of. In fact, I survived a day out with my mom, who believes when she spoils the grandkids she can also spoil their mom. So the kids and I came back home with a new art kit and some books and I got an awesome field guide to spiders, my new fascination.
And how are you? How did the bar go?
Are you Shrubbery, Esquire?
I thought of you this weekend when I was watching the original version of the "Wicker Man" and Britt Eckland was doing her naked dance. It made me think of the time I updated your Testicle Tuesday site for you. I felt so gay.

Morgan said...

I was so grateful to have a doc who believed that most episiotomies were unnecessary.

(btw, I added you to my links)

Andrea, I had midwives who felt the same way and I am *still* thankful I never had to undergo those unnecessary cuts. I'll add you to my links this weekend. And I've been meaning to email you back but have been so busy. Hope all is well!

Shrubbery said...

Alas, no, I'm still sans "Esq". I'm set to take it again in Feb. You're not gay if you like Britt's booty, I'd wear it as a hat.

Morgan said...

Shrub, you're just too good for the profession. Perhaps you could become a booty-hat model if you eventually lose patience with the bar. Or expand Testicle Tuesday into a seven-day a week pay site.

That Cleaning Lady said...

Well, I learned one thing from a horrid instructor I had in college. She said "If worrying about this problem won't fix it within 20 minutes, you aren't allowed to worry about it at all." So, stop worrying, God provides (obviously). Besides, worrying only makes you wrinkled.
Please check out a book on dehydration-- a symptom of that is asthma and lung problems, maybe Alex is more thirsty than sick!

Morgan said...

We try to keep the kids well-hydrated, especially in the winter months.
As for the worrying, my oldest daughter is a chronic fretter, and I tell her all the time that she's only making things worse by obsessing over problems. I think some of it may be hereditary; my gandmother was a real worry wart, and Jes reminds me a lot of her.