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Chuck Poulsen: Pharmaceutical companies a pain in the butt

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 | 5:53 am

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Chuck Poulsen/Needlepoint class

By Chuck Poulsen

One last report from Mexico, although this story has a connection to Canada and the U.S.

I have developed a condition called edema. When it hits, my face swells up like a pumpkin and my lips look like I’m Bozo the Clown. I know what you are thinking: “That’s because Poulsen IS Bozo the Clown.” No more straight lines for you.

There is no cure for edema and once you get it, it will reoccur.

There is, however, a treatment.

The gold standard is an injection of Decadron (dexamethasone). That’s a powerful corticosteroid.

An attack of edema was coming on so I went to the local “farmacia” in Mexico.

I bought a vial of Decadron, a syringe and some Prednisone tablets as a two-day follow-up.

Mrs. Poulsen, a nurse, shot me in the butt with the Decadron.

When I get back to Kelowna, I’m going to ask the nursing department at UBCO if it’s prescribed practice for a nurse to giggle when she is causing a patient pain.vial

The Decadron pretty much resolved the problem overnight. It will surpise you to know – and bring deep-furrowed frowns to the foreheads of Canadians doctors – that I bought all of this without a prescription.

The only medications that require a prescription in Mexico are narcotics.

If my Kelowna GP, Doctor Goldfinger, is reading this, he may resort to a second cup of coffee although I think he’s only allowed one. He has subtly indicated to me in the past that I should stop self medicating.

I think buying meds without a prescription is OK in emergencies, and when the patient has had enough experience to understand the procedure.

For instance, Dr. Goldfinger explained Decadron to me this way: “That stuff will turn your bones to dust if you use it too long.” It’s for use only in an emergency.

Here is the more important issue: The cost in a Mexican village drug store for an 8 mg. vial of injectible Decadron, a bottle of 10 mg. Prednisone pills and a syringe was: $6 Cdn.

Here is another example: A doctor, who also owns the pharmacy, gave us some Valium for the Mexican dog we are taking back to Canada. We’d prefer that the mutt doesn’t create a terrorist-like incident on the plane. Mrs. Poulsen and I will probably need it too. Cost: $2.

In Mexico, the government is the largest buyer of medications and sells them to drug stores at cost. The government dictates the price, not the pharmaceutical companies.

There are buses full of Americans coming across the border to Mexico to buy cheap meds. There are also buses full of Americans coming to Canada to buy cheap meds, although not as cheap as in Mexico.

The Canadian government also has price limits on how much the pharmaceutical companies can charge.

Over the last ten years, pharmaceuticals have been at the top of the most profitable industries in the world.

The drug companies say they have lowered their prices in Mexico because of “international income inequalities.”

Wait a moment, I have to shed a tear over their concern for the poor.

OK, that didn’t take long. If you don’t believe what the drug companies say, neither does the Research Service of the U.S. Congress.

Their researchers make an obvious point: The drug companies are selling in Canada and Mexico because they make a profit, and that includes research and development costs.

An American here told me that the U.S. is subsidizing the drug prices in Canada and Mexico.

If Americans have a problem with drug costs, it’s their own fault for letting free enterprise run out of control, like their banks.

Higher taxes because of high drug costs, as well as the money the drug makers lavish on politicians, are two reasons why Obama can’t get a decent health care bill past his own Democrats in congress.

Chuck Poulsen is a retired journalist, but can’t seem to stop writing. You can contact him directly at His column appears Wednesdays.

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One Response to “Chuck Poulsen: Pharmaceutical companies a pain in the butt”

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