You and Your Health Provider - Proceed With Caution

Recently I received a letter from my health provider here in Hawaii. The doctor who signed the letter failed to look in my file to determine whether the letter was necessary for me to receive.

The letter states that my doctor is approving a change in my prescription for thyroid tablets. This is due to a manufacturer's shortage in various strengths of the thyroid drug. So the doctor is approving a change in the amount of tablets I am to take daily.

At some point prior to receiving this letter, I had decided to wean myself off the thyroid medicine -- with the doctor's supervision. I am happy about that especially in light of this turn of events.

I am not privy to the inner workings of the health industry or the company that provides my health care. It is a leader in its field. I know my health care provider is a leader in its field. But the events leading up to me being on their list for this maiing do give me pause to consider whether there are kickbacks and rewards for the doctors, to put us, the patients, on prescriptions and to get us to take expensive tests. Some of you might know the answer to this, not only through articles you have read, but first hand. I do not. I am only wondering and feeling myself becoming a little nervous about the health system.

I do think it is worth sharing my recent experiences in short versions:

· In May 2008 my doctor examined my throat with her hands and thought she felt two small growths there. She had me attend the lab for blood tests. She asked me to go see one of their surgeons for further examination. My doctor prescribed a thyroid drug for what she termed was hypothyroidism. She failed to tell me that this is a drug I will need to take for the rest of my life.

· The surgeon ran me through a sonar kind of test. I can't remember the name of the test. He said he saw two possible tumors on my parathyroid. He told me that he recommends I go to Honolulu for nuclear imaging scans. I agreed to go. The health provider paid for the airfare and the scans. I had my first experience with claustrophobia during the scans when a huge steel machine moved across an inch above my face and throat. I asked the nurse if she could stand beside me. She said no one stands near the patient during this as it is radioactive.

· Next, when I returned to Maui, I was advised that an MRI is recommended. I talked myself into it even though I was afraid of experiencing claustrophobia again. A few weeks later, while going through the MRI experience, the technician and his assistant and I conversed. The technician mentioned that the thyroid drug I had been prescribed is not something a person can simply stop taking or the person may experience bad effects such as loss of hair. He mentioned that his mother had been on the same thyroid drug I was prescribed and when she decided to switch to a generic brand in order to save money, she lost all of her hair.

· After the results for my three state-of-the-art tests were reviewed by the surgeon in Wailuku, his assistant called me on a Friday afternoon and said there is no need for me to come to my next appointment -- which was set up so the doctor could explain the surgery procedure. The doctor's assistant -- or maybe she was the receptionist -- said I was fine. There were no tumors.

I found this whole experience very odd. If the doctors are merely getting paid a salary, I can't imagine how they can benefit from my taking those expensive tests. I decided I was being unnecessarily suspicious.

Next I received a phone call from my doctor to come in for a blood test. When my doctor received the results of the blood test, she then said I need to start taking double the amount of thyroid medicine for my hypothyroidism. I asked her what would happen if I miss a few tablets on the double dose or what would happen if I can't get it at all anymore for some reason. Nonchalantly, she said that I will go bald. I told this doctor of mine that I think she should have told me that if I start to take this particular medicine for hypothyroidism, I need to take it all my life.

I had approximately six tablets remaining in my third refill of the lower dose of the prescription. I asked the doctor for her guidance. I cut each tablet in half and weaned myself off the prescription. I started taking a drop of iodine each day. I'm not suggesting anyone else does this. I'm still tired. I do believe my doctor's diagnosis of hypothyroidism is correct, but I am going to look for natural ways to deal with it. The doctor said I might lose my hair or a goodly portion of it if I quit taking the lower dose of the thyroid medicine I was on, but so far I've still got a full head of hair.

Now that I have received this letter from my health provider, I think I made a good decision. I feel concern for the many people who take their doctor's word as absolute truth and sometimes this can lead to quite a predicament. From now on, I'm checking everything out thoroughly before I start putting a new kind of pill down my throat every day.

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