A TINY PILL (7.14.12)

A Tiny Pill

Life in these United States today is not ideal.

Fine.

Yet every day men and women and children get up and manage somehow to get through twenty-four hours, most without damage and actual physical pain.

No matter what, we’ve worked hard and become very lucky in this country.

And yet, night after night during the evening news, we are advised that we can somehow improve our moods by adding Abilify(c) to our anti-depressants.

After several exposures to this wonderful advertising campaign for a drug the purpose of which seems fairly unclear, we get curious. Actually, we were already curious and disbelieving as we heard the dulcet, female voice-overs that accompanied the cartoons illustrating how moods can change, how eventually we may be able to do without so much medication.

Our disbelief comes as we listen to the narrator explain carefully to us all what side-effects may sometimes be expected.

An increased risk of strokes. High fevers, stiff muscles, confusion, muscle pain, perspiration, changes in pulse rate and heart rate, and blood pressure. Increases in blood sugar levels which can lead to death. Changes in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Weight gain. Difficulty in swallowing which may lead to choking. Uncontrollable movements of face, tongue, or other parts of one’s body. Lightheadedness and fainting. Decreases in one’s level of disease-fighting white blood cells. Seizures.

Now the thought that dashes through our head when we hear these disclaimers, no doubt included in the commercial by order of the Federal Drug Administration, is simple: who in his or her right mind would even consider taking these pills, not only once but regularly?

When possible side-effects include death, shouldn’t that disqualify the drug altogether from being sold and used?

And we always love to hear the oft-repeated line, “Talk with your health provider,” or “Discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your child’s healthcare provider.” Child? Children take this? Even better, you should share with your healthcare provider any issues you may have regarding kidneys, heart, and lungs. Does the manufacturer think we’re operating on our own here?

The crowning piece of information on Abilify is that we can all get our first 30 days worth free plus a monthly savings of up to $100 per refill.

Even if we needed this drug, clearly most of us couldn’t afford it.

Which leads us into Political Safari’s waist-deep waters.

Even if we were crazy about Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney, can we afford either one of them?

What side-effects do we get with each candidate?

What side-effects have we already suffered?

Now it is important not to make too much fun of the conditions in which Abilify might conceivably be of some use. It is to be used in the treatment of bi-polar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. These are not garden variety head-colds. This is serious stuff. Still and all, when a manufacturer lists side-effects, he does so because they have shown up in experiments and tests more than ten per cent of the time. They may not effect you, but their incidence is real.

Bi-polar disorders, depression, schizophrenia.

Partisan gridlock, frustration, national anger and suspicion alternating with national incivility, name-calling, and terms of endearment that can lead our more susceptible citizens to violence.

We think Abilify and its uses and side-effects typify exactly what’s going on at grass level all across the country.

It’s been said that the country in which pill-taking has reached the level of high art is Italy. Well, we stand head and shoulders above our friends in Rome and Bologna and Venice in the belief that one good pill will solve everything. We even have a charge account at our local drugstore.

Alas, to date, no one has come up with a compound that will bring sanity, civility, thoughtfulness and foresight to us and our neighbors.

For a long while we weren’t certain Abilify was even called for. The Republican primaries were high entertainment and we knew that it was only a matter of a few weeks before our temperatures would fall again to normal.

By May, however, when our presidential campaigns really got rolling, our own frustration levels began to rise. It was more than just the economy, stupid. It was more than jobs, jobs, jobs. It was more than being assaulted by Republican threats once more over the debt ceiling fight to come.

Then came the surprising decision by the Supreme Court that by labeling the individual mandate a tax, the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. Ideally that should have put paid to a lot of bickering and backbiting. That, of course, didn’t happen.

So where are we now?

Still stuck in an increasingly unsilly season, when staffers on both sides feel absolutely free to insult the office of president, not to mention the man holding the job. Has President Obama duped us all, becoming a tax-and-spend Democrat, the target, perfected over the years, by his opponents? Has Mitt Romney convinced himself that he really did leave Bain Capital in 1999 and was in no way responsible for anything that occurred — off-shoring, out-sourcing, off-loading, cutting pensions, needing the US Government (that, folks, is us tax-payers) to bail out Bain for breaking its promises to its workers — after that date, despite evidence in newly released SEC filings that he was sole owner, sole stock-holder, chairman, and CEO until spring of 2002?

Schizophrenia maybe defined in several ways. Many sound appropriate to what we’re experiencing this summer as we run forward to the general election. It is a noun, and may be defined as a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior; a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements; a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment.

If one of those definitions doesn’t sound like our country, our current candidates, the language we all speak is as broken as the spirits of those who do genuinely suffer from these diseases.

This year, during this election cycle, we can’t consult our healthcare provider. We have no doctors available to help us sort out the truth from the falsehoods.

We begin to feel like men of a certain age who go to their physicians for a checkup, only to be told they have prostate cancer of a kind that is not aggressive or virulent and so their advice to us is to relax and forget about it. Prostate cancer is slow-growing and probably won’t kill you before something else does.

In medicine as in politics, mistakes are often made. Misdiagnoses may occur as often as misstatements.

Which is to say we’re on our own here. This is not a comfortable state of affairs.

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