Barrett’s Esophagus, Nexium and Prescription Drug Prices

In what might be considered the true irony of life my doctor diagnosed me yesterday with a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus (for those who might not get the irony, my last name is Barrett). Considering that I have had chronic indigestion for about 10 years now, the diagnosis is not a surprise. Changing my diet and eating better seems to help, as does taking some medications — but I am truly astounded that the prescription drug (Nexium) he has me on costs almost $300/month. Further research shows that Nexium is simply a chemically re-engineered version of Prilosec (omeprazole), a drug whose patent has expired and can now be found for a fraction of the cost of Nexium.

Several years ago I was taking prescription Prilosec and it worked very well. I also experimented with taking Tagamet (cimetidine) and Zantac (ranitidine) but both of those caused my stomach to feel weird, so I reverted back to popping Tums Extra Strength tablets several times a day. The Tums worked pretty well except for when the indigestion was very bad and often taking too many Tums resulted in constipation. I’m considering taking only one dose of Nexium before dinner and using Tums for the rest of the day.

I’m fortunate that my health insurance will cover the cost of the Nexium, so I will take it for a while and see if it works as well as the Prilosec did some years ago. As long as I can sleep better and not wake up with painful indigestion I will be a much happier man.

In other health-related news, I finally have health insurance again — thanks to my new wife whose plan has excellent coverage for spouses. I was able to see my hematologist/oncologist again (the same guy who diagnosed me in 2001 with Castleman’s Disease) and he agreed with my self-diagnosis that the Castleman’s is either completely gone or in long-term remission. This was all thanks to the wonder-drug prednisone and iron supplements (to cure the associated anemia).

It’s also worth reading this debate between Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik about health care reform. Gladwell is th author of the New Yorker article I linked to above.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at February 23, 2006 01:11 PM

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