I first stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital when I was around 3, then once more a few years later. Fortunately, modern medicine (plus astute baby-sitting and NYC taxi driving, respectively) saved my life - thanks all around.
For the past twenty years (and a few more on top), every day, twice a day - once right when I wake up and once right before I go to sleep, I’ve taken medicine to avoid this. I used to take two different types of medicine, so 4x per day, but for the past decade or so, I’ve only taken one - Advair - so only 2x.
Although my childhood issues were hardly mild, for the past 10 years or so, I have probably used my “rescue” inhaler once or twice, if ever. While I still exhibit allergic symptoms, I can’t remember if I have had any asthmatic issues during this time.
Around a year and a half ago, I randomly glanced across an article suggesting an overprescription of Advair along the lines of this: http://www.drugwatch.com/2012/12/11/investigation-shows-advair-inappropriately-used-for-mild-asthma/.
More recently, after reading about the adverse impact of glucose (and hearing/watching a few conspiracy theories), it made me question some of my largely unquestioned routines and prompted me to see a doctor.
After going through a few quick breathing tests - one last month and one this week, I am ostensibly free from Asthma. Although I am incredibly, incredibly pleased, there’s some frustration.
My parents must have spent thousands, if not tens of thousands on Advair for me. A quick Google search suggests that the current price is $300 [I actually never checked until just now, wow], and each diskus lasts one month for me. Over 10 years, that’s around $30,000. Fortunately, health insurance makes that number significantly less, but on top of the medicine — they paid for health insurance, and likely a bit more for me because of my condition/need therefore.
Health insurance companies, in turn, spent money on this - instead of for people who have life-threatening or even financial issues that are exacerbated by this externality.
I am increasingly fascinated with biology and the impact of pharmaceuticals, I am by no means a doctor, so none of this post should be considered remotely scientific in nature. It’s highly likely Advair and my other daily asthma medicines helped me: a) avoid asthmatic issues b) improve my pulmonary function c) get me to a place where I wouldn’t need it any more. For any, if not all three, I’m incredibly grateful.
Nonetheless, it is clear that the point I could have stopped talking this medicine was likely at least a decade ago. I felt annoyed when I’d watch movies like The Bourne Legacy and empathize with the protagonist’s reliance on medicine — namely, the apparent need thereof and subsequent fear (of and of being without).
I haven’t blogged in a while, but this experience forced me to. Both for personal gratification and expression of this newfound freedom, and as a cautionary tale for others. Medicine is an incredible thing - and in the near to mid-future something I’d like to pursue, given its potential impact on individuals (like it has for me to outgrow asthma) and mankind as a whole.
As such, this post isn’t about medicine. My childhood experiences traumatized me into a state of dependency and fear in the context of my asthma. This is hardly characteristic of me, which is why with the mild, aforementioned external pushes, I felt an urge to be rid of this.
This post is not intended to criticize medicine (which undoubtedly saved my life multiple times) or the American healthcare (which undoubtedly is an ineffable disaster).
Rather, I hope this serves as a cautionary tale and external push to question the unquestioned…with proper doctoral consultation, in the case of personal health.
…and go see The Lego Movie, it is awesome.