Infantilizing the Geezers
Many of us geezers who use medications for pain or for sleep are now being questioned by Medicare - - - through a government subcontractor named "OptumRx" - - - about our use of drugs, even ones we have used successfully, responsibly over the years. Apparently, there are some of our own generation who have a need to employ these various opioids stupidly . . . murdering themselves in the process.

The rest of us get to suffer because of this.

It's called the Twin Tower Terror Syndrome. Because a few dozen nuts elected to destroy the lives of three thousand innocents in a far-off office building in 2001, the lives of the rest of us get upended with the imposition of endless "homeland securities" (as they are called) where our day-to-day peace and wanderings and travels and privacies and are stolen away from us by those violent overreactions of the central government, one that has created a new American way of life called "being in terror of terror."

But operating out of terror, we suggest, cannot be a worthwhile living system: it simply screws up the gentle flow of life that some of us had come to enjoy in this country for so long.

In the same way, because a few dotty peers of ours choose have chosen to destroy themselves with the medicines the rest of us use sensibly and well, we find the government moving in to diminish our comfort and our ease with several kafka-like requirements imposed not on them (they'll always find ways to exploit these drugs) but on us.

Example: I have been using a sleeping potion named Restoril for the last several years. It gives me a full night of rest with no hangover . . . nor diminution of whatever powers of thought and mobility that the gods have chosen to let me retain at eighty-three.

Yet because it can be abused, OptumRx has offered to cut off my necessary Medicare payment for this drug. Since it is vastly overpriced by the manufacturer to take advantage of the very government that makes it cheap for me (less than sixty dollars for a three months supply), I am now be asked to pay in excess of $600 to continue using this medicine because the government has deemed me at riisk.

I addressed this nuttiness in a recent letter to OptumRx:

Dear Health and Human Services:

I celebrated my eighty-third birthday a month ago.

It wasn't an elaborate ceremony, for we find as we age these things are a bit of a rant, and for some reason we find that they don't put all the candles that they should on the cake. When I do go to blow them out, it turns into quite a wheeze.

Other things change too. Take the place where I go to for my monthly medicial help. They say I have glaucoma, diabetes, dysphagia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post-polio syndrome, and tachycardia. In fact, my assorted health problems now fill up too many pages in their computers; I've taken to asking them not to print them out every time I visit. A mere listing of my diagnoses runs so fat that it gives me pulmonary embolism just to look at it.

But I survive, and often happily so through my own resources, plus social security and a team of able helpers. I have three or four people who assist me to bathe, dress, get me into my wheelchair and into my car, tend to my shopping, feed me, help me to get to bed at night, and, when there is an emergency, work with me to use appropriate medicines and machines for my survival. They also do the vital nightly repositionings in bed to protect me from pressure sores.

With all this, I lead a productive life, drive to my office three or four times a week, cook, read, write, and spend much of my time working with my computer. For the last 21 years, I have been the full-time editor of an on-line magazine, and Secretary-Treasurer to a small foundation that we use to fund several worthy charities across the country.

I take regular medications for my ills, plus others in emergencies.*** I take pills for my diabetes, heart problems, respiration, and also from time to time to make it possible to sleep. And for pain.

The lack of sleep has been a bother for many years, especially when my joints ache, and the best cure for pain - - - the best cure of them all - - - is sleep. As Shakespeare wrote, it is sleep "that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care . . . "

Before, to help me get the rest I need, over the years I've tried most of the "organic" sleep drugs, those like Valerian, Melatonin, and St. Johns Wort.

Melatonin, I found, can have serous effects on my diabetes, and according to some, may contribute to depression. The Mayo Clinic online states that Valerian can lead to liver problems, and St. Johns Wort may promote hypoglycemia.

In addition, antihistamines affect the bladder, much more so for those of us with BPH. I have found it makes it impossible, at times, to urinate - - - and so I do stay away from it.

From time to time, I have also been prescribed Ambien, Lunesta or Sonata. They all manage to make me feel, the next day, as if I had been slugged on the head with a hammer. Sonata, in addition, creates a certain physical weakness in my body, a body that is already weak.

I've had more success with Tamazepam. I've used the 7.5 mg pills once or, at times, twice a night when I need them - - - one at 11 pm, say, another at 3 am. With these, I find I can wake up without a hangover, feeling fit for another day.

I had Medicare prescription coverage when I was using the 7.5 mg Restoril, and the same when I was switched to 15 mg. It was only when I asked for this split-dosage that someone called OptumRx decided I was getting involved in something dangerous - - - that they should sic the dogs on me.

In the past, a 90-day supply of the smaller tablets of Temazapam cost me about $19 with Medicare . The newer prescription for 15 mg. Restoril came to be about the same. But when I asked for permission to have two 7.5 mg pills instead of just one 15 mg, my supplementary medical payments were immediately suspended. My druggist tells me that I will now be required to pay $600 each ninety days if I wish to continue, on my own, with this medicine.

I thought that 7.5 + 7.5 = 15.

Now I know that 7.5 + 7.5 = - $600 dollars.

I have lived through (and survived) the 1960s and its myriad chemicals. Over the years I am one who - - - in my many travels, in many countries - - - have been offered no end of spooky and mind-bending drugs.

My problem is that I just am not that interested in those things. I have too much to live for in my life. Like arguing with some desultory agency called OptumRx about my freedoms and my brain power.

Here I am, white-haired and dottery, and the government of the United States has notified me that I cannot be trusted with a sleeping potion that I have used on and off successfully (and, I may say, safely) for some time.

Even more insulting, I am being told that the physician who has cared for me over this span of time is also not competent to monitor my care and prescribe for my needs.

Some of my fellow golden agers who have gone through same bureaucratic twists and turns refer to it as "infantilizing the geezers." We can not be trusted with our own health and medication. My thought: an agency, from out of the blue, called, ironically "Health and Human Services" should not be charged with gauging my resiliency, my wisdom, my good sense, and my needs.

- - - L. W. Milam

***To the reader:

I like the fact that many drugs sport scenic, often beautiful names . . . due, I suspect, to the inventiveness of the poets in the marketing depaartments at Merck, Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, Gilead or Takeda.

Thus we end up with such lovely names in our medicine cabinets: Alphagan (to start with), Amoxicillin, Augmentin (to augment your life), Celebrex (to be smarter), Klonopin (to klone someone for you), Lasix, Lopressor (to be put down . . . easily), Nexium (for the next seige), Neurontin (for the neurons), Percocet (to perk you up), Tramadol (good for traumas) - - - and the ever-so-lovely end of the alphabet soup gang: Xanax, Zalatan, Zestoretic, Zoloft, Zythromax.

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