16 December 2008

Possibly Ill-Advised Thrift

Okay, so I stayed in a hotel room last night, and I don't like using all the throw-away stuff plus I don't like drinking out of styrofoam, so I mixed up my Emergen-C vitamin drink in my coffee cup.

That was after I started the coffee brewing, measuring the amount of water going into the pot with that same coffee cup, because I don't like using extra energy to heat extra water.

So there I am, drinking my vitamin drink and otherwise getting ready to face the day ... and my coffee finishes brewing. And I start pouring.

And for some reason the coffee cup is full, but the coffee pot isn't empty.

I take a little sip. Warm coffee ... flavored with Emergen-C. But I didn't want to waste the vitamin drink or the coffee ... so I drank the whole thing.


Fear and Loathing on the Island of the Terminally Ill

Dana Jennings writes in the New York Times today what it's like to be, as he puts it, "Person, Patient, Statistic." It's a fine meditation on illness and its cures, the problems with the cures, the medical professionals who see patients as (again in Jennings' word) "meat."

It hits home hard for me this week. Over the protests of its manufacturers, the FDA voted recently to take Serevent, a long-acting bronchodilator, off the market, because they say it's masking worsening symptoms and leading to more patient deaths. But they've allowed the drug-makers to keep Advair (which contains Serevent plus an inhaled cortic0steroid) on the market, on the argument that the steroid mitigates the problems with the Serevent.

Advair has been keeping me breathing very effectively for the last year or so. I chase The Offspring, and go out running, without getting exercise-induced asthma, which has plagued me for -- literally -- as long as I can remember, since my early childhood.

Now, though, I get a chill of fear with each morning's dose and each evening's dose.

For my doctor, it's about statistics, and about "patient compliance" -- a problem medical professionals often ascribe to sloth, or to patients' daft inability to follow directions.

For the drug companies, I feel fairly confident in arguing, it's all about the bucks. Big Pharma has a pretty well-documented history of dismissing, down-playing and concealing evidence of serious side-effects of medication. Unless the medication in question has just gone generic, in which case they're happier to have it taken off the market, so they can sell more of something that they can make more money on.

(Case in point: Seldane was killing people back in the 1990s, but the FDA didn't make the manufacturer take it off the market until they had developed Allegra to replace it; Allegra, conveniently enough, became available just as Seldane was getting sold in generic form.)

Yeah, it's important to stay up-beat. And I don't really have time to think about it this week; I'm knee-deep in papers and finals that need grading. But I'll be having a little chat with my doctor when I see him next in a couple of weeks about whether I really should keep taking this medication.

02 December 2008

Thanksgiving, A Little Late This Year

My mom is home from the hospital, worn out, but healthy.

The Offspring isn't throwing up any more, and he's recovering from the demise of The Fish.

I slept soundly last night, and I'm not feeling quite as porous any more.

Aaaand, I found the CD I've been missing since July: Peter, Bethany, and Rufus. Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, and his daughter singing with Rufus' accompaniment on cello. Lovely stuff.