Meningitis and the 2012 Presidential Election

November 6th is just 12 days away, and depending on early voting in your state, your time may already have arrived.  So, I’d like to throw out my endorsement. I know you all have been holding your breath. 🙂 I suspect this:

A)    Will come as no surprise to those of you who know me well.

B)    Will have a slightly smaller impact than that of Former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

My President speaking in my city (Tampa, FL) today!
Photo credit: Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

There are many, many reasons why I support President Obama again this year.  I believe he is helping to move the economy in the right direction.  He is the only choice for supporters of equal rights for women and LGBT Americans.  Lora and I just got married, but according the federal government and the state where we live, we are no more than strangers!  I could go on for days, but for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on one thing.  Healthcare.  Do I think “Obamacare” is perfect?  Absolutely not.  Do I think doing nothing is infinitely worse, for business, the economy, and especially for Americans?  Absolutely.  To illustrate this, I share my perspective on one current news story.

You have probably heard about the fatal meningitis outbreak caused by tainted methylprednisolone.  As of now, 317 people have been infected, and 24 have died.  It’s horrifying.  This drug is one that many with uncontrolled or flaring rheumatoid arthritis, including me, take daily.  In this instance, the injectable form was used in a procedure called a cervical epidural spinal injection, designed to reduce inflammation, and therefore pain, for a number of different debilitating conditions.

I have had multiple of these injections; my last in June 2012.  It is only by sheer luck that my pain management doctor did not use this compounding pharmacy, or I could be a statistic.  As you might imagine, this sobering fact hit me pretty hard.

If you’ve followed the story, you know that a compounding pharmacy in New England was responsible, and though not regulated by the FDA, this pharmacy and others like it are inexplicably providing these drugs.  This is unacceptable and must change.  Regulations are not optional when human lives are at stake.  Period.

Especially as a “frequent shopper” of the health care system and its pharmaceuticals, I wondered how we got to the point where this could happen, so I dug deeper.  I quickly found the short answer: drug shortages.  These compounding pharmacies are, quite simply, filling a need in the marketplace, something my business brain can understand.  However, given that we’re discussing medicine, and not just any old product, my human brain cannot comprehend.

The reasons for drug shortages are varied and complicated, but there is a glaring one that stands out: corporate profit.  Most of the drugs on the shortage list are older, generic drugs, which don’t make their manufacturers much money.  As an example, there is an older chemotherapy drug, commonly used to fight leukemia in children, called methotrexate that has been on and off the list for the last year.  You may recognize this one from my “Defying Gravity” post, as it is also the most common drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. I was affected by the methotrexate shortage about six months ago, as were with thousands in our community. It may not seem like a big deal, until you consider what it would be like to be unable to work or even get out of bed without those drugs. Economic cost indeed.

Methylprednisolone is another, and when FDA- regulated manufacturers didn’t produce enough of the drug to care for patients, compounding pharmacies jumped in to fill the demand.  The result was devastating for hundreds, and to this point, fatal for 24 Americans.  Was lack of corporate profit the only reason for the drug shortage?  Probably not, but it is one very ugly, very alarming part of a complex issue.

And President Obama is the only candidate working to fix it.  A key piece of the Affordable Care Act limits health care companies’ administrative, marketing, and other non-medical costs.  The goal of this is to ensure that the majority of patient premiums are spent on patient care, not kept as profit.  Hopefully, when profit is limited at this step in the supply chain, we will see fewer drug shortages due to lack of corporate profit.  Furthering the solution to this epidemic, the FDA Safety and Innovation Act was signed into law in July.

These solutions are not complete, nor are they foolproof.  They will most certainly need to be adjusted and improved over time.  But after decades of doing nothing while health care costs and corporate profits skyrocketed, the Affordable Care Act represents a bold first step in the right direction.  Additionally, the law provides health care coverage to millions more Americans, as well as those with pre-existing conditions (you know, like Rheumatoid Arthritis), regardless of income or employment status.

He’s got my back, so I’ve got his.
Photo credit: facebook.com/barackobama

Compare our President’s plan to that of Mitt Romney. The former Governor of Massachusetts passed health care reform for his state in 2006, and it has been a success.  Instead of promising to fight for all Americans by further implementing or even improving the Affordable Care Act, his vision for the country involves immediately repealing it.  In its place, he’ll keep the most expensive form of taxpayer health care we have.  Newflash, Governor Romney: emergency rooms don’t cover chronic conditions.

Only one candidate in the 2012 Presidential Election is working for America on this critical issue.  President Obama passed major health care reform in his first term, and will fully implement if granted a second term.  Unfortunately, nothing can save those impacted by the horrors of the meningitis outbreak.  I’m praying for the sick, for the families of those lost, and for an end to the new cases.  Now, we can only hope to learn from this disaster. It starts with our choice on November 6th. President Obama’s got my back, so I’ve got his.

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4 thoughts on “Meningitis and the 2012 Presidential Election

  1. Leslie says:

    I’m with you! And with Obama! I’m old enough to be your Mom but also an RA patient and my brother is gay – not an easy life in the US today. The Republican right and their throw back to the 1950’s is fightening. I can’t believe they are going there! We need healthcare. We need equality.

    • Thanks for the congrats Annette! It’s amazing how chronic illness can provide an intimate education on health care. 😦 Change is much needed! Thanks so much for reading!

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