Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Bitter Pill To Swallow.

First of all, a bit of info about why going to America every year is so important to me.

In the years between 10,000 BC and 1497, many intrepid explorers "first" discovered America. They know who they were so I'll not name names. Grand lads, the lot of them.

In my case, it happened in the summer of 1989. Yes, I first discovered America 21 years ago and have been there 23 times since.

I wasn't much of an explorer back then and in fact, really only discovered Florida that first year. But over the next 10 trips, I visited all 48 continental states and a few years later visited the Hawaiian islands, leaving only Alaska to be explored by yours truly. Until global warming heats it up a few dozen degrees, it'll remain unexplored too !!

I retired in 2001 and from 2003, I've been spending 6 months a year in America and have now settled into a lovely routine - the 6 months of Spring/Summer in England and the 6 months of Autumn/Winter in Florida. Not a bad way to spend my retirement years and things looked fair for this to continue for years to come.

But although I didn't know it until this week, this routine was based on a dodgy foundation, a human foundation.

My friendly pharmacist.

You see since my 2nd heart attack in 2005, I've been on a daily regimen of 5 pills which combine to slow my heart rate, widen my arteries, thin my blood, stop clots forming and lower my cholesterol. They're kinda vital to my well being and I will be on them for the rest of my life.

My doc writes me a prescription (script) for these pills and my local pharmacist then delivers them to me. When I started going to America for 6 months I hit a serious snag as docs are only allowed to prescribe 3 months supply at a time, maximum. My pharmacist was a fellow Ulsterman and a 'good egg to boot' and he sorted things out so that he could give me 6 months supply at once. Basically because mine was a repeat prescription, he was able to simply send in my second 3 month request while I was in America ! Not strictly legal and he was risking his job by doing it.

Earlier this week he told me that he had applied for another job and was just waiting for confirmation of getting it (he was pretty sure he'd get it) and so, although I needed 7 months of pills this time as I don't leave for another month, he could only give me 6 as, even if he got this new job, he had to give 3 months notice and so would be around (only just) to put in my second prescription request as usual.

Did that all make sense to anyone ??!!!

This was a crushing blow for my future trips to America. It was also an immediate blow for this upcoming trip as 6 months supply just isn't enough. Including the days leading up to the flight to Florida on 7th November, I need pills for 212 days but have only got pills for 168 days as the NHS regard a month as having 28 days !

I contacted my doctor....he wouldn't budge on the 3 months as he said those were the rules. I rang the NHS headquarters in London and was eventually told there were no hard and fast rules, only guidelines and the guidelines said 3 months max. They suggested I contact the local NHS office as they provide docs with their guidelines. I did so and was told that docs have contracts with the BMA (British Medical Association) and they say 3 months too. I went back to the London HQ and this time a different person told me the rule WAS 3 months max.

What it comes down to is that everyone agrees it's unfair and basically bureaucracy gone mad but no one will bend the rules. What I need is.....

1) My friendly Ulsterman to NOT get that new job or
2) Find a new friendly pharmacist or
3) Change doctors and get one that realises this is all very silly or
4) Only go to America for 3 months at a time.

I know which one I'm hoping for !

Before anyone offers these as suggestions, can I answer them now.

I can't have pills posted to me as I tried that once and never got them. I assume customs in the UK or US (or both) don't let pills through.

I can't ask for double strength and crack the pills in half as for one thing the patient can't determine the pill strength and for another, I'm on the max dose of most of my pills as it is !

Although I am registered with a doc in Florida, I can't ask her for a script as at least 2 of my pills cost over $100 for 30 days supply and anyway I'm sure they wouldn't be prescribed without expensive tests...despite having my UK medical records as proof. Getting those are costly here too.

So there you have it. I'm off to Florida in 4 weeks time and right now I'm faced with the scary prospect of having to skip my pills at least one day per week.

Hopefully future blogs will return to more cheerful topics but right now I'm pretty depressed and ironically the stress of it all may make taking the pills unnecessary !


Daphne said...

As you know I've been discussing this with every medic I encounter (and I encounter quite a few in my work). All agree it's ridiculous and depends on finding a doctor or pharmacist who'll put themselves on the line by overriding the guidelines. All agree that you shouldn't have to deal with the stress of it. I'm still pursuing it of course but it makes me SO angry!

Ruth said...

This is horrible and, I would suggest, discriminatory. It's as though anyone in need of prescription medication is sentenced to restricted worldwide travel. No year-long round the world trips for intrepid students who happen to be diabetic or epileptic or anything else -ic that is managed by prescription drugs.
There is a tiny glimmer of hope on this website: (scroll down to bit re John Bell & Croyden or IDIS) but it would probably have costs involved and might still depend on your GP taking their head out of their bottom!

Jennyta said...

I can see thst suggestions are useless as you have already thought of all possibilities, so I just hope that one of these 'powers that be' is enlightened enough to sort things out for you, Ian. As Ruth says, it is discriminatory. How about a letter to your MP?

rhymeswithplague said...

First, do no harm.

I am just a voice crying in the wilderness, of course, but I don't think missing your pills one day a week would be all that detrimental to your health. (I am not a physician and I dont' want to be accused of practicing medicine without a license because I understand there are severe penalties including a lenthy incarceration.)

Suddenly stopping your medication and not starting up again is certainly not what I mean, but "inadvertently" missing a day here and there probably won't cause you to keel over. I've missed my medicine by accident at times, and I'm still going strong after nearly 15 years.

You can even make a game out of it. You can either skip all of the pills one day a week, or do it round-robin style: skip pill 1 on Monday, skip pill 2 on Tuesday, skip pill 3 on Wednesday, skip pill 4 on Thursday, skip pill 5 on Friday, take all pills on Saturday and Sunday. That way, your body is not without ALL medication at any time. If this is too confusing to remember, get one of those big monthly calendars and set up a written schedule. In 26 weeks you will find you have 26 extra days worth of your medicine, or my name isn't Hippocrates.

Wait, my name isn't Hippocrates.

Forget everything I said except the first sentence of this comment.

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