Once again, not the blog I’d intended to write today–that one was all about taking Fenzi, the resident black lab, for a walk and how great dogs are as icebreakers, but another time for that.
My eczema, the bane of my existence, has broken out probably as a result of spring breaking out and all the pollen and newly cut grass. I brought over a big supply of cortisone based medication from the States to treat outbreaks on my arms and back, but, because cortisone thins the skin, I can’t use it on my face and neck. Yesterday, when I woke up with blotches all over my forehead, around my neck and behind my ears, I looked through all my bags for the tube of a special non cortisone product that I bought just before I left the States. An expensive non cortisone product — $200 that’s with the Medicare drug allowance. Unfortunately, I’d left it back in the States.
A note on the price. Horrendously expensive, but, according to my dermatologist, less expensive if special ordered through a pharmacy who, he said, cares more about patients than money and was cheaper than chain drug stores. My only option it seemed was to call back to the States — don’t get me started on getting a calling card when you barely parlez-vous, still another blog — and arrange to have the medication shipped to me in France.
But when I mentioned all this to Luisa, she said she had eczema too and happened to be going to see her doctor for some allergy medicine. She didn’t have an appointment, but apparently it didn’t matter. The receptionist said the doctor would see her (me too) between his scheduled patients. After about ten minutes, he called us into his office. Luisa explained the issue. I scribbled down the name of the medication, the doctor did a computer search and found the drug. Raised his eyebrows and said, in English, that it was much more expensive in the States, then wrote me a prescription. The cost? 34.02 euros. It took me a moment to comprehend. He smiled. One tube or two? At that price, I told him two. He shook my hand, kissed Luisa on both cheeks and we walked over to the pharmacy.
Ok, this isn’t a rant on the awfulness of the American health care system and how much better everything is in France. Excideuil is a small village and Luisa and Richard know the doctor and his wife socially. Their kids all went to school together, she said, adding that he never charges them. I’ll just give him a bottle of wine when I see him, she said when I asked about paying. I also don’t know all the ins and outs of the French health care system. The doctor and the pharmacist did both explain that the state works with drug manufacturers to keeps costs down. The doctor even illustrated, with a sort of hand gesture, government clamping down on the drug companies. If the manufacturer won’t cooperate, they don’t get the contract from the state. Something along these lines anyway.
In the States, by contrast, the clamping down seems to be the other way around, with the large drug companies clamping down on a government which seems powerless or indifferent to the the steady gush of profit enjoyed by the drug companies. Which explains, I suppose, how one country can charge so much for an identical product that costs a fraction of the price in another country.
I think Luisa’s comment sort of summed up my feelings. Here in France, she said, it all just seems more humane somehow.