Two or threes ago, in the halcyon days of undergraduate experimentation in a gender studies major, I took a class on women and medicine which, instead of talking about Clara Barton and whatnot, instead looked at the ways in which medicine is inscribed upon certain societies. For awhile, I thought this was all radical claptrap -- but living in Delhi, it is immediately apparent that the way one views medicine is heavily, heavily influenced by the way in which is is conceptualized by society.
(Interstices: Other important factors for coming to this conclusion include reading Foucault at the same time I read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. And, also, I am perpetually plagued by disease -- real or imagined.)
So ANYWAY, I was having all this existential angst about finding a good psychiatrist in Delhi, who doesn't charge an arm and a leg (because I WILL NOT claim this on my health insurance as I think the Indian HR bitch would use this as an excuse to fire me, global nondiscrimination policy or not), and who is also still operating (there is a massive medical strike that's been on for three or so weeks now to protest reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backwards castes -- and if you don't understand what I'm talking about, message me, or read something from the Indian Express on the issue, which is aboslutely fascinating). And I was bitching and fretting and moaning, and finally S just suggested we go to a chemist and try and buy my presciption medicine without a prescription, because, well, this is India.
And...in less than 10 minutes, I got the medicine I was having a nervous breakdown about running out of. The clincher? A month's supply in the U.S. of this medicine (generic name quetiapine, used to treat schizophrenia, primarily) costs about $120 (though it's free through my insurance plan). Here? I bought a two-week supply as a test case, and it cost $1.50.
I am a little...I just don't know. Now I'm agonized at the evilness of Big Pharma and insurers and etc. I need to write something and submit it to an American paper, because...think of all the people who are homeless in America (and abroad, I suppose, but I haven't read the literature) because they are mentally ill. The medicine is prohibitively expensive and getting it requires numerous doctor's consultations, a possible reason so many lapse in treatment and end up completely unable to function. What if they could buy it at a reasonable price? What if not all our medicines were marketed and branded and intellectual-propertied, etc.? Even though I believe in the bottom line...why isn't there some sort of conscience underneath the layers and layers of bureaucracy?
Of course, I'm not suggesting that this medicine should be as freely available as it is here - I could be any bum. Americans are much more savvy about medicines, it's much more in your face, etc. But there should be some happy medium, no? Should I follow S's suggestion and start stockpiling pills of all kinds for illicit importation and sales to the underprivileged (in my opinion, the worst idea ever, but it's something a revolutionary would do, isn't it?)?