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Acupuncture in America

Something that we’ve spoken about very much over this semester was what actually falls under the umbrella of “access to medicine”.  We’ve spoken about big pharmaceutical companies and TRIPS and about the unfair pricing of medicine, but this article brings up how valuable alternative treatment methods could be in fighting illness.  I do believe that in some instances you do need a “Western” approach to fighting an illness; it’s been proven over and over that antibiotics are an effect way to kill certain kinds of pathogenic bacteria that cause us to get sick.  But there is a grey area of medicine (especially in the realm of pain management) that has room for a more open interpretation.  Especially going into the field of health of physical therapy, I am very open to the idea of treatment that looks at the body as a whole instead of just the immediate problem.  As a PT, many times someone might have pain in their feet from say, plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of someone’s feet.  Although you must treat that immediate pain, a good PT will also explore what else is going on in your body to produce such pain; hip weakness or sometimes tight calves could be the culprit.  The point is, in the long run what will alleviate this person’s pain?  Homeopathic medicine often does this as well; how can the body be improved beyond what its condition was prior to the illness being treated.  Many times alternative medicine comes under fire as being “voodoo” because there are no FDA regulations and because, well, honestly people are just very skeptical of home remedies and something that isn’t made in a lab.  But the truth of the matter is that more and more people are realizing their health is a reflection of their body’s imbalances, and often you don’t need very much to push yourself back into alignment.  One of the bigger picture problems that is on the horizon is because of the skeptics, many times insurance companies will refuse to pay for homeopathic treatment (such as acupuncture), so people are very often left to pay out of pocket.  Isn’t it my right to be able to chose my own treatment?

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Over the counter vs. prescription: What are the effects on pricing?

So far in class we have dedicated a lot of time to why drugs are inaccessible due to disturbing high pricing by pharmaceutical companies.  According to this article, soon some very common drugs for chronic, non-infectious illnesses such as high blood pressure and asthma might be available over the counter.  I think that this could benefit our access to medicine in two ways: 1) you will no longer have to pay for the visit to the provider/rack up insurance costs for the visit that essentially is 90 seconds long anyway just to get a prescription 2) It has the potential to be another route for pressure on pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of their drugs.  Because you would hypothetically no longer need a script for your medication, the point is made that technically the immediate out-of-pocket costs of the consumer could go up since a majority of insurances don’t cover over the counter purchases.  But especially with an election coming up, I think it’d be an awesome time for politicians to pressure the big pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices so that people could potentially afford their medication.  I also think this is a great step towards people being more involved with their own treatment.  Especially with chronic, non-infectious diseases it’s a chance for people to be more independent, monitor their health, and also possibly be more committed to their treatment plan.  Many times, people will “self prescribe” by cutting their dosage to make their medication last longer, or will just not take it to avoid having to deal with another doctor’s appointment.  As someone with asthma, I know that I’ve gone for gaps of time without my medication not because of lack of medication or insurance but because I could simply not get an appointment with my doctor that coordinated with my schedule.  On the other hand, it could also be argued that the solution for lowering health insurance costs is not to cut out the provider.  Especially because the disease is chronic, this proposal could further distance the already strained relationship between patients and their providers.  Along with trying to form a relationship with their patients, doctors use the three month checkup to not only prescribe more drugs, but to also monitor the dosage, make sure there are no side effects, and also check for other conditions that could arise (i.e. if you have hypertension you are at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, so maybe you should be checked out by your doctor for physical warnings of these conditions that a questionnaire on a computer can’t catch. Thoughts on this proposal?  Is cutting out the provider just a band aid the government is putting on the bigger problem of health insurance costs skyrocketing? 

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20120330,0,1491023.column

This past Friday, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media caught fire with lottery fever.  People who don’t even usually play the lottery plunked down $1 or more for a chance to try to get a slice of the record breaking $640 million jackpot.  According to Bostom.com, although no one in Massachusetts won more than $39 million worth of tickets were bought since the jackpot began accumulating back on January 24th.  Mega Millions is a lottery that spans over 12 states; one can only image how much revenue this past drawing brought in.  Holding a ticket Friday night that could mean a better life got me thinking about what people do with their winnings and our discussion in class about how much money benefits low income countries.  We live in a society where one person could with one ticket could potentially wipe out disease and hunger in a small country; would it ever happen?  Are human altruistic by nature, or is this a learned “habit” we have formed?  Is health care just a mark of the “haves” and the “have not”s in the world (like the brand of car you can afford?)