Monday, July 16, 2007

Pharmaceutical Companies are as Evil as Insurance Companies

Today we went in to have the orthopedic surgeon begin injections into Hubby’s knees. He is in constant pain when he walks. Active all this life, he now has to hobble at the grocery store, limp with the doggies in the park, and we have permanent handicapped tags on the car.

We have investigated total knee replacement, but Hubby is not yet ready for another hospital stay. He’s afraid. The last one, 7 days in ICU, 10 days total, stole his strength. Because the knees are now so painful he has been unable to exercise his way back to his former physical level. His legs, always muscular and strong, emerged from the hospital as toothpicks. He’s been reduced to a tenth of a mile hobble around the park; then he sits on the old folks’ bench and lets the dogs roam at will. He can’t play with them anymore on their daily walks.

We tried cortisone injections to reduce swelling and pain but they produced no effect. Today’s shots are a visco-supplementation therapy that involves injecting a clear gel-like substance directly into the knee joint. A series of injections in each knee help to restore some of the lubrication lost by damaged cartilage. An injection is given as one shot into the knee joint each week for three weeks.

The doctor tells us that usually people who respond to this form of treatment will experience some improvement for six to ten months. An injection series can be repeated every six months as needed. This method of therapy is used for people who have not benefited from less invasive therapies such as lifestyle modification, physiotherapy, and oral medications.

The cost for one treatment cycle of Synvisc® (three weekly injections) into ONE knee is over $800 – that covers only the drug and not the doctor’s services for the injections. We’re doing both knees. Because these shots are so expensive, it takes up to a month to get approval from the insurance company. We could have started treatment two weeks ago when we had an appointment with the doctor to hear about the results of Hubby’s MRI, but the insurance approval had not yet been granted.

I went with Hubby to get the shot – one to each knee. It was a very simple procedure. The actual injection site was marked with the doctor’s fingernail imprint – he held his finger on the knee until he had an indentation – and then the shot was given. Hubby experienced little to no pain. He was advised not to jog for a couple of days, but we laughed at what was clearly a moot point.

I began researching Synvisc® on-line when we got home, just to see what the prognosis was for Hubby feeling much better in about three weeks. He’s got a 50% chance, which is pretty good considering the state his knees are in. But what got me was that in Canada we could have bought the series of Synvisc® (all three shots) for $315.

Then the mail arrived. In it was a bill to us for $100 – a sum that wasn’t covered by Hubby’s MRI to prove that his knees didn’t have tumors, just arthritis. The MRI cost $755, we paid $35 at the visit, and now we owe another hundred bucks.

I’m so disgusted. We were always told that because we had a democratic system of free trade we were protected from this type of chicanery. Instead, we’ve become victims of greed and price gouging – and the middle class American is going broke if this keeps up.

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