An eye on the prescription

It appears to be a small subconjunctival hemorrhage said the doctor. My left eye few years before with a strong sneeze caused a nasty floater while I was shaving early winter morning at Jammu. Eye Floaters that look black wispy threads are caused by age related changes, and can cause tiny shadows on one’s retina, and often go away on their own in few weeks or months, said the doctor.

Examination of retina (fundus examination) confirmed the tiny rupture, which did not come as a surprise. The left eye was an angry red and clearly crying for some R&R. (Rest and relaxation). The big shocker was the big bill that I received, after the diagnosis. By the time I was through with the doctor and the chemist, I was a few thousand rupees poorer.

There was a time, not so long ago when treatment for an ocular surgery constituted a cast, eye drops, pain medications, and large doses of patience. It takes 4-6 weeks for a cataract eye surgery to recover fully, and probably no medication can hurry it up. So what constituted my 4000 rupee Bill? The doctor’s fee eye scan, and drops amounted to no more than Rs. 1900. But the medication prescribed included Vitamins, A,E,C, Niacin, etc on the assumption that my eyes have age related weak muscles) and a protein supplement (As a support while the eye is healing, said the doctor.

My statement that my diet did not lack vitamins or protein was brushed aside. So I accepted the prescription quietly (that is me, Anchor of TV health programnes over 45 years) and got it filled up at the pharmacy. It shot up to couple of thousand rupees.

Now I can afford to enjoy doctors whim’s once a while. But what about thousands of patients who take it for granted that their doctor has their best interests in his mind when he’s writing out a prescription, forgetting the fact whether his patient has the capacity to pay for the treatment. And we lay folk often too much in fear or wonder or the doctor to question his prescription. The shock comes out soon after the chemist hands over the bill. And even then few of us dare to go back to the doctor and ask for substitutes. We feel shy to admit that we can’t afford the drugs.

What puzzles me why nearly every prescription written out these days recommend a tonic or a vitamin tablet that has little or no bearing on the ailment in question (my protein supplement, for example). It is best to get the vitamins our body need eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods rather than by taking supplements.

Of course, a supplement may be valid, if your condition warrants it. However, you can and should gather the courage to ask your doctor for a rough estimate of how much the medication prescribed will cost you. And if it’s more than what you expected or can afford, find out whether any of the prescribed branded drugs can be substituted with generic ones which are often cheaper. Ask which of the drugs prescribed can be dropped or at least postponed, without fear of a setback in your condition. At least this firm and gentle attitude will compel your doctor to think before he hands out the prescription to you.