Saturday, June 25, 2011


An interesting thing happened at the dentist’s office, which I have been frequenting lately for tooth repairs. This dentist is doing a strange thing in this day of dour economics: first, she adds a three-percent surcharge if you pay her bill by credit card. Second, she charges $5 to write a prescription. The first charge I can understand. She is deflecting Visa’s 3 percent handling charge to the customer. The second charge for writing an antibiotic prescription is, as far as I am concerned, a bit much. I judge this is a new thing for her, because the last time she wrote one for me, when I had the first root canal done in March, there was no such charge.

To be honest with you, though, I don’t have any strong negative feelings about doing this. Paying a little extra money to the dentist is much less onerous than paying the egregious price jumps that appear on the grocery shelves week after week after week. The dentist in private practice is limited as to what she can charge if she takes patients with dental insurance. To be candid, what I am paying as my co-pay on this most recent root-canal is exactly the same as I paid for my first root canal in 1985 when I didn’t have dental insurance. So I can’t be too miffed at helping out my dentist by being charged a few extraneous bucks now and then.

I just can’t help but wait and wonder where the next bite will come from.

Next observation, and related to the dentist.

I dropped my antibiotic prescription off at the local pharmacy and Jerry picked it up for me later in the day. I was given 28 pills – and instructed to take one four times a day. When I opened the bottle I was startled to see neon pink and black capsules, very different from the Amoxicillin I’ve had before. I understand about generic drugs and don’t usually quibble about them, though I would really prefer NOT having a generic. But if I want my insurance to pay (and I do) I acquiesce.

However, after downing the funny-colored capsule, I noted on the label that the drug manufacturer was AUROBINDO. I’ve been hit by globalization, I thought. And I ran to the computer to see what Google could turn up about Aurobindo. Sure enough, it is manufactured in Hyderabad, India. What caught my eye immediately is a that the US FDA has sent a warning letter dated 5/20/11 to the director of Aurobindo in which two items are discussed: One is about the “specific violations observed during the inspection in September of 2010 of mold growing on a plate” and ends with this statement: “We are concerned that similar situations were observed by other FDA investigators during previous inspections....The inspection uncovered additional deficiencies that increase our concerns regarding the validity of the data generated in the microbiology laboratory and the quality of the sterile API and finished drug products manufactured at your facility.”

The second problem identified by the FDA was inaccurate packaging and labeling of products and a seeming inability to correct the problem. Apparently the first problem arose in April of 2010 and as of the date of the letter (over one year later) has not yet been corrected.

My main concern about globalization with medicines is the inability to control lax safety standards. In living abroad I have seen that standards in some foreign countries are vastly lower than we have come to expect. As an example, we quickly learned in the middle east if you didn't find a mustache hair on your plate of food it meant you had already inadvertantly eaten it. If I have any control over it, I do not want to take any pills made outside North America. I intend to talk to my pharmacist on Monday when he is back in the shop and show him this letter. I will ask him not to provide me with any further medications from this company. I realize doing this will simply be a drop in the bucket, but at least I can do this for my own piece of mind. Globalization is here and unfortunately we mostly do not have any way to circumvent being affected by it.

And finally, this morning Jer and I went to Mimi’s for breakfast. While he was eating a crab-cake omelet with roasted red potatoes and I was eating a vanilla yogurt and fresh berry parfait with granola sprinkles we were discussing ourselves and the state of electronic devices. Jerry and I can use our cell phone to make and receive calls. Period. We do not text, we do not send pictures, and we do not leave or receive messages. Like my new Canon camera, there are at least 168 pages of instructions for those little Motorola Trac-phones and we’re just not up to processing so much in our shrinking brains. In fact, we understand we are actually going backwards by just standing in place. Soon we will be as innocent babes, learning to crawl around on the floor and maybe pull ourselves up on the furniture if we’re lucky.

In the meantime, I told Jerry my belief is if the 2014 Asteroid 2003 QQ47 doesn’t get us, the internet et al is going to be the means of our earth’s demise. I see it as the logical 21st century story just as the Little Black Sambo story belonged to the 20th century. In case you don’t remember Little Black Sambo (it became politically incorrect sometime in the mid 1950s) here’s the scoop as told by Wikipedia: Sambo is a South Indian boy who encounters four hungry tigers, and surrenders his colorful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so they will not eat him. The tigers chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of melted butter; Sambo then recovers his clothes and his mother makes pancakes of the butter.

Noah faced the destruction of civilization by water; later he was told by the creator water would never be used again, but the next time destruction would be by fire. As much as I love the computer and the internet, I have this feeling that instead we will have another “Little Black Sambo” event. The electronic/internet revolution is going to go faster and faster and faster and eventually what will be left of us will be a pool of melted butter – nothing more or nothing less. I don’t think we have to wait for a natural event. I think we will do it to ourselves. And I wonder who will make the pancakes then?

Am I downcast by all this? No. Que sera, sera, as the song says. In the meantime, I continue to peck away at my trusty computer, share my views on globalization and on the sad state of the economy – and wait for a minor reason to use my cell phone. As long as I can think, ruminate, type (excuse me, keyboard) and blog a bit I feel pretty darn good for my age, both mentally and physically (except for my poor old teeth!)

1 comment:

Olga said...

I use my cell phone for calling if I should need to when I travel. Otherwise it is mostly turned off. I just heard a bit of radio talk coming home today..."We all carry smart phones or are in cars that know where we are..." It was something about semantic webs to make devices smarter. Well. I admit, they are smarter than me.