Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Drug companies and hurricanes--it's just one disaster after another

You can run but FEMA will find you--Oklahoma and Kansas have tornados, which is why it's called Tornado Alley. We certainly know the dangers of living in Florida and the Gulf Coast, forgetting the ugliness of the place. You get floods and blizzards in the Dakotas, and California gets earthquakes, mudslides, monsoons and actors as governors. So where do you go to hide from Mother Nature? Slate did some number crunching and concluded that good old southern New England--specifically Rhode Island and Connecticut--is the safest place to live in the U.S. To be really specific, enroll in the University of Connecticut or teach there because it's in Storrs, perhaps the safest city. It's a nice area, very pretty and pleasant to live in, but very pricey. Surrounding New England is relatively safe too, but there is that coastline and major storms. Storrs is 50 miles from major bodies of water. It's even a blue state. Since the area does not have a lot of poor people, you can expect the government will respond quickly. What more could you ask for?

The voices you hear are the pharmaceutical companies assuring you they have only your best interests at heart, the dears--If you are, God forbid, schizophrenic, you run into two hardships in life, besides the schizophrenia. One is the price of the drugs, which can run upwards to $600 a month! The other is the notion that if you are having a psychotic attack, it is because you are not taking your medicine like a good boy. A new federally funded study from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests both burdens are unnecessary and the drug makers are responsible. The new, expensive drugs turn out to be not generally better than the older, cheaper ones, including at least one generic drug. That doesn't mean that for some people, the new drugs aren't more beneficial--the study measures the effects in the population as a whole. It will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the study itself cost $44 million. Since Americans spent $10 billion on the newer antipsychotic drugs last year (Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel and Geodon), it may prove to be a good investment. An older now-generic drug, perphenazine works apparently just as well and is a tenth the cost. The new drugs, marketed as having fewer side-effects, now have 90% percent of the market, and indeed, have their own collection of side-effects. They also don't always work, and if a patient is having a psychotic episode it does not mean they haven't taken their medicine. They may well have done so. It just isn't working. And they--or somebody--will have paid too damned much.

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