Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Rotten Foot; or My Own Health Care Meltdown

I have a good excuse for not having created new posts at my normal rate.

I have what could best be termed a metabolic derangement.

I've altered and adjusted my dietary intake to affect some change - with little success. One doctor tells me I have a hereditary predisposition for the condition, so I'm stuck with the problem. The problem - a fiercely painful problem called gout - was long referred to as a "rich man's disease" or a "king's disease" or the product of "indolence" - none of which apply to me (okay, maybe I am a little bit indolent, as I most often spend my hours at a desk and keyboard). Historians tell me that such luminaries as Alexander the Great and Isaac Newton suffered this problem.

It first dug into my hide last February, I woke up thinking I had broken my ankle during my sleep or something. (A true sign of aging, indeed - waking up having injured myself in my sleep.) I actually had to get a dang cane and hobble into the doctor, who promptly said "Oh, it's gout" and gave me a few prescriptions, which did scale it back to a more normal Joe kind of day pretty quickly. But it keeps coming back. It sort of feels like someone is pounding on my feet with a ball-peen hammer repeatedly.

History, again, reveals that it was Ben Franklin who, suffering the condition, obtained a a medicine made from the autumn crocus, aka, meadow saffron, called Colchicine. The same medicine was prescribed for me. However, the medicine was banned last fall by the FDA, as it had never undergone the standard testing procedures modern medicines must undergo. It was also only 6 dollars a for a month's supply.

A new drug, Uloric, is being promoted instead, and it costs about 200 dollars for a month's supply.

Thanks. Like I can afford that.

Now let's get even more confused.

One doctor claims that the FDA only banned the sale of injectable Colchicine. An article in the Oak Ridger by Dr. William Culbert Jr says the drug has been approved by the FDA, but fails to note the massive change in prices, up to $5 per pill.

What I have learned is that since Colchicine was "grandfathered" by the FDA since it had been used for centuries before there was an FDA, that allowed for a company called URL Pharma to step up in 2009 and pay for the FDA testing and for a new patent on Colchicine, now called Colcrys. The result of their actions forced all other makers of generic Colchicine to halt all sales. It's buy their product or nothing. Their product also costs about $300 for a month's supply.

URL Pharma was quick to eliminate even a discussion by doctors about the change from generic to a very expensive medication. "Shake-down letters" - that's what some physicians called the communications from URL Pharma. "Liability" replied URL Pharma.

Which all leaves me without medicine, as that price tag is too large. I'll have to try and get on a "patient assistance program". Which I am loathe to do.

And, frustrated, in pain, and more than a little confused, it's been tough to sit down and write something for my blog. And so here I am, offering instead far more personal information than I really wanted to provide. Who wants to read about my health problems? (And I am most grateful this is the only medical woe I have, as millions of others have far more horrifying conditions and limited treatment tales.)

Like millions and millions of Americans, I am left with a simple conclusion - doctors don't operate our health care system, but pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies run it instead.

I suppose I should be happy I don't need a prescription to use a cane ..... yet.


  1. TCCLAY2:15 PM

    Hang in there Joe!Diet and time will do the trick. I had ongoing problems not only with gout, but with other inflammatory joint problems for years.All of the prescription drugs would help, but the side effects were messing with me. One year ago I knocked off the red meat and shellfish and started to make sure that I was always hydrated. Since I cook, I started eating stuff high in Turmeric such as Curry, which is great for inflammation. I'm happy to say that since May, I have been pain free.

  2. thanks, TC

    hydration, check. on my way to meatless .... but dropping it for a week or two didn't help, so a 30 trial is ahead. but time is a cruel thing :)

  3. Anonymous3:37 PM

    There's no shame in trying to get prescription assistance. You might try either the drug company's website, or

  4. i know, i know - complaining about ailments and pharma companies is like going outside, shaking my fist at the sky, and demanding that it be warmer.

  5. Joe! Canada is the answer.

  6. well Kelvis it sure is my lucky day - buckets of Canadian drugs AND i just got an email saying i've won the Ethiopian National Lottery too!! wheeeee!

  7. Teri Gaddy9:06 AM

    I too suffer from gout in my left foot. About 4 years ago I fell off a ladder and landed on a post on the left side of my pelvic bone. The fall and impact crushed my lymph nodes (as well as cracked a rib,etc). I now have painful lymphedema which caused the gout.

    Yep, it sucks!

    Lots of water does seem to help some days.