Tag Archives: FDA

A trip to the ER and other medical hassles.

And of the medical hassles, the ER was the most pleasant one.

Our Christmas Eve tradition for the last few years is to have family over for Christmas Eve dinner. We stuff ourselves with appetizers and leave a ton of leftover ham, mashed potatoes, pasta salad and green bean casserole. Within three minutes of our guests leaving, hardly even giving us time to complain about the bottle of wine that we opened and was hardly touched (it was one of those mondo size bottles that leaves me torn between not wasting perfectly good wine and the fear of sleeping through Christmas Day in a stupor), Connor was fussing for his iPad by the kitchen table and went down with a loud thunk. I picked him up and set him on the island, hoping for his standard forehead bruise. It’s a constant battle to keep his forehead a normal skin color, and that is why he frequently wears head protection. I realized he was bleeding and called to Chris for paper towels. One swipe and I knew we had a problem. This was deep.

We headed to the Kennestone Hospital ER where Connor received three stitches. We were in and out in just under two hours. It was impressively simple and undramatic, but I guess when you’ve already done the NICU and brain surgery, three stitches ain’t no thang. In fact, Connor had spent the entire day being royally uncooperative as far as smiling for photos, giving me the first in the waiting room with a hole in his forehead.

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Getting the stitches in was easy. Getting them out turned out to be the pain. The ER doctor informed us that while we could come back after the holiday, the wait would go back to standard long waits and suture removal is bottom priority. He recommended getting them removed at his pediatrician. I love his pediatrician. I do NOT love the office staff that stands between us. I called to make an appointment and was told that she’d have to check and see if anyone would do it on a young child’s face. “It’s just three!” I tried to persuade her. Two hours later, a nurse calls me back and says it’s okay. She transfers me to the scheduler. “Well, they don’t usually do this on kids under three. I need to check.”

“We just went through this,” I explained. “I was transferred to you by the person who got the okay.”

“I still need to check.”

WTF.

After a long hold, she comes back. “You’ll have to take him back to where you got them.” I don’t think a doctor was even consulted. It was just “office policy.”

I was pissed now. I informed her we would not be going back to the ER. I did not inform her of how wasteful of time and money this was, or what a burden this kind of crap is on the system. I asked if an urgent care would do it. She thought they would. But after careful consideration of the all the germs floating around in waiting areas and the fact that the flu is reportedly raging through Georgia, we opted to Google stitch removal and do it at home. If there were a lot, we wouldn’t, but three seemed doable, and it was actually pretty easy. So take that, idiotic office policy.

I also handled the fact that last month’s paperwork glitch regarding Connor’s Sabril (vigabatrin) prescription was apparently never resolved. Typically, if there is an issue filling this prescription, a group called SHARE works with the manufacturer to make sure prescriptions go out. I learned that this is not the case if you are marked non-compliant with the eye doctor paper work. They had sent us last month’s prescription in spite of the screwup. Thanks to the FDA, they couldn’t do it again.

You see, Connor takes a seizure med that carries some risk to peripheral vision. The FDA, when they finally got around to approving it in 2009 — 30 years after initial clinical trials — decided that if you wanted to use it, you had to have eye exams every three months. They also recommend ERGs every three months. An ERG requires Connor to be put under for 45 minutes to an hour. We stopped those a long time ago. He had one come back indicating a change. But nobody could tell us squat about what that meant, or if it was even more than a fluke. Not even all eye doctors recommend it. Some bend to the fear of the FDA and others flat out tell you it’s a waste of time and they can tell you very little with young children.

The regular eye exams (at which the eye doctors also acknowledge they can’t tell you much and it’s just an empty requirement) are very mandatory. Paperwork must be submitted to keep the meds coming. Some parents speak of obtaining waivers for these, but those waivers seem like unicorns to most of us. Something wasn’t submitted properly. Then it didn’t get fixed properly. And then it was decided by all parties (other than me) that the best option was to not give my child his seizure meds and status seizures, brain damage, even death was a better possible option than some minor impairment of his peripheral vision. The FDA is apparently well aware that one needs 20/20 vision when on a ventilator fighting for life. I did not inform the manufacturer or pharmacy that I was able to obtain some for Connor so that he was not at risk for the terrible dangers of cutting a med cold turkey. Eventually the kickass assistant at his neurologist’s office was able to fix the situation, further proving that they are the only medical office I have ever been able to count on.

Sabril was not the only source of my fun with pharmacies. I tried to refill his Onfi. When I called to do so I was informed they were out and I could fill it locally if I had the local pharmacy call to transfer it. Annoying (don’t you plan for your regulars?) but okay. I had filled it at CVS before. First I tried Walgreens because it’s closest. No pharmacy in the area had it. Then CVS. Nope. Then Kroger. Nope. I called the mail order pharmacy, Optum Rx, back and asked what was I supposed to do now.

“Well, you may have to call his neurologist and get a prescription for something else.”

Something else? Just replace his highly addictive benzo?

“I don’t understand how you just run out of something you are supposed to mail on a regular basis. I want a supervisor.”

Three people later, we were able to piece together that by “out” what they actually meant was that they could have it to me by the following Wednesday, but they didn’t have it that day (Friday). It apparently took three people to get this vital piece of information that took a major issue to a non-issue. In pissed relief, I told them that was fine.

Have I mentioned I have three different pharmacies for Connor? So much for safeguards where the pharmacist can be that extra set of eyes watching for interactions and issues. I have to get Sabril from CVS Caremark (which is great as long as the FDA stays out of it), Onfi is from Optum Rx (their motto is “At least we’re not Accredo”) and all others from a local CVS.

So now we’re stocked back up on meds. It’s 2015. Despite all the venting in this post, I think it will be a good year and I hope it will be a good year for all my friends in the epilepsy community that spent the holidays in hospitals. I will leave you with some pics of Connor’s Christmas (three times in three homes!) to cleanse the palate.

Emptying the stocking.
Emptying the stocking.

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With Aunt Donna.
With Aunt Donna.

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Checking out the turtles with Grandpa John.
Checking out the turtles with Grandpa John.

 

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Medical Cannabis and Political Games

Guest post by Mixed Up Daddy

For those of you that have wondered, yes there is a Mixed Up Daddy that walks the path of life with Mixed Up Mommy.  Probably more astonishing to some (including my family and close friends), I even can write!  Although let me start by saying I don’t write nearly as well as my wife.

Also, before I get into the true reason of this post, let me just say how proud of my wife I am, not only for writing this blog and educating so many on TSC and our journey through it, but also for being an incredible wife and best friend to me, and of course the best mom ever to Connor (no offense to the other moms out there!).  I also want to thank the little man himself, Connor.  He is such an inspiration to me, and I only wish I could have a little bit of the strength and courage he shows every day.

Now on to the reason for my first foray into blogging — a certain state representative here in Georgia.  As I am sure you are all aware from reading Becky’s blog, there has been a push in 2014 to legalize medical cannabis oil in Georgia — oil that could potentially not only help with the quality of life for so many like Connor, but could potentially be lifesaving.  It goes without saying how wonderful it is to have State Representative Allen Peake of District 141 who was willing to champion this cause for so many on our side.  He did this knowing it was going to be a tough fight and one that could potentially end his political career.  It is refreshing having politicians who, even though they may lose their political career, are still willing to take on the hard issues because it is the right thing to do!  I applaud you sir!!!  I only wish we had more like you at every level of government.

But that isn’t the representative I came to write about.  I also didn’t come to write about my State Senator who, although he is in the state senate to represent myself and the rest of his constituents, never returns emails, voicemails, Twitter messages, stands you up for appointments, and doesn’t even show up for his own scheduled town hall meeting (and let me add this is not just my experience, but dozens of his constituents’ experiences).  Nor am I here to write about how wrong it is that our government (both at the federal and state levels) take off every other year from tackling the hard issues because “it is an election year”.  Again, there are some great politicians out there that don’t do this, but I am sick of hearing this. You are elected to represent us, each year and every year.  I am also not here to tackle the comment made on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives during the debate on HB885 by a freshman politician that when he took office he was told by other politicians that freshmen congressmen and congresswomen should be seen and not heard.  Since when do those who elected a new member to represent them suddenly not have a voice?  To me this is nothing more than bullying of politicians by other politicians. Thankfully the above referenced representative did not listen to those politicians, but instead gave a great speech and represented those from his district. On a side note, don’t get me started on the all too common practice in politics of “the more you donate, the more you matter and get access.”  Maybe that is how I can get access to my state senator?

Okay, so maybe I got to a few items, just not in the detail I could have.

No, I am here to talk about, and give my opinion — no one else’s — on Georgia State Representative Sharon Cooper of District 43.  I did not know who Sharon Cooper was before this process as I do not live in her district and did not get involved in state politics. But after this process, oh wow!  Now I readily admit I am biased when it comes to the topic of cannabis oil, but my issue with Sharon Cooper isn’t so much on this topic, but the way she has conducted herself during this process, and I can only assume, how she conducts herself in general down at the Gold Dome (the Capital in Georgia is referred to as the Gold Dome).  I also will say that she voted for this bill twice — once in committee and once in the full House vote. But looks can be deceiving.  In my humble opinion she has actually been trying to kill the bill behind the scenes.  I will get to that in a moment.  Some though will say, “Why would she vote for the bill if she didn’t want it passed in reality?” Well that is where I question how she does things.  Based on parents who were in the House during the vote, she was one of the last to vote. Again it is just my opinion, but my guess is that she was seeing how the vote was going, and in “old school politician” mode, chose to vote for it as it isn’t easy to be a “no” vote when the vote is 171-4, but it is easy to hide as a “no” vote if the vote were say 104-71. (I know old school dirty politics, I was born and raised in Chicago, where that was invented).  No, an “old school politician” would vote for it (knowing that is what the public would see), and then behind the “closed doors” of the capitol try to kill the bill (luckily the doors of the capitol of Georgia are not as “closed” as she thinks).  My issue here is that she has a responsibility to her constituents to show them how she truly votes on the issues, not resort to the all too common politics of today of “I will do whatever I need to do to get reelected”.  I have no problem with my elected officials voting contrary to my opinion on issues, as there is no way we would see eye to eye on every issue.  We should not have to ask that they vote accurately though so we can actually make an informed decision during elections.  We deserve that much!

Now you may ask, “How was she trying to kill the bill?”  Behind the scenes at the Gold Dome she was passing out a flyer on the “Truths” (my wording) of HB885, yet there were several facts that were wrong on it.  I am not sure if she just got the facts wrong and didn’t do the research, or if she did this on purpose, but either way that is unconscionable, and although it is common in politics, has no place.  Let’s also not forget that her position on some items is ever changing.  Take Epidiolex (a pharmaceutical cannabis product that is currently going through FDA trials and shows some great promise) for example.  At her committee meeting there was testimony by a woman — a family values advocate, not a doctor  –who said Epidiolex could be here in Georgia in 30 days, yet there was also testimony by a respected neurologist (Connor’s doctor, and many of the other children that could benefit from cannabis oil) who said he was in the process of getting DEA approval to run an Epidiolex trail, but it was a long and arduous process.  So who does she back during the meeting? The non-doctor testimony — never mind the fact that it was a lie.  She would correct that in later speeches and comments though.  She could have also found out more about how it is such a long process by watching the show Weed 2 that recently aired on CNN and was done by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  Of course this is the same congresswoman who called into question Dr. Gupta’s credibility during her committee meeting.  Never mind Dr. Gupta is a well respected neurosurgeon, assistant professor, and journalist.  She also cut off more than one parent during their testimony, including one that she would later reference in her speech on the House floor regarding medical cannabis, although twisting and misrepresenting his story to fit her ways.

Representative Cooper’s big idea on the subject is that we have an alternative FDA medicine — Epidiolex — at our disposal.  Unfortunately that medicine is not readily available and we have no idea when it will be (most likely years based on other FDA timelines).  Currently it is only in trials, very limited trials (we are talking 125 people, and based on trials that are trying to get up and running, at most maybe 2000 people, but probably less, in the future).  She also has said that Children’s Hospital of Atlanta has told her they are open to do studies on Epidiolex, yet when contacted, CHOA said they have no interest in doing a study on Epidiolex at this time. I have no idea why the parents are getting different information than Representative Cooper, but we certainly aren’t being told what she says she’s hearing (maybe “old school politics” again).  What do these parents and adults do in the meantime?  Also, let me point out that most patients have exhausted all available FDA-approved meds that are out there for their conditions.  Let me also mention that although I am sure there are some incredible people working for the FDA, let’s not forget that the top levels at the FDA are political appointees, and that big pharma is an incredibly powerful lobby and big contributors to political campaigns.  Let’s also not forget the side effects that come with the FDA-approved meds that are taken every day — possible vision damage, kidney failure and liver damage to name just a few.  Or that there have been FDA-approved drugs that have then been recalled.

I am digressing though. There are some incredible parents we have met along this journey that are a lot better at giving examples of her lies, and if they cannot get them published in the Atlanta paper, I am sure my wife will give you a forum to get your message out.  Since the Atlanta paper allowed an editorial by Sharon Cooper though, I certainly hope they give “us” a chance to get the truth out there.  Again, this is about her shady politics, though.  This is what the general public has grown sick of in America.  We expect our politicians to act in a better manner.  I only wish I lived in her district to run against her.  In Georgia though, we are sort of set-up where the common man can’t run.  We only pay our politicians less than $18,000 a year (no, I am in no way advocating for higher pay), so unfortunately unless you are a business owner, or independently wealthy, it is almost impossible to run as you can’t raise a family on that pay.  As great as my company is, and they have been incredible throughout our whole journey with TSC, I am pretty sure they are not going to let me take the first three months of the year off.  And how I would love to run against our state senator so that everyone in our district could be heard and represented.  I deserve to be heard and represented; we all deserve to be heard and represented!

Sharon Cooper was passing out the original in black to members of Congress. The red print reflects changes made by two of the parents so it could be passed out by HB885 supporters to set the record straight.
Sharon Cooper was passing out the original in black to members of Congress. The red print reflects changes made by two of the parents so it could be passed out by HB885 supporters to set the record straight.

If I Were To Unleash Termites on Someone’s House, What Kind of Criminal Charges Would I Be Looking At?

Today started with me wanting to go into a near rage. Last night we discovered a house in the next cul-de-sac over–we live in a very small neighborhood–just went on the market. We were not thrilled. This morning it was online. Bigger. Same price. I wanted to knock on the door and punch the owner in the face. Pictures didn’t go up for a couple more hours, but after driving by a couple times, and finally seeing the pictures this afternoon, I can offer the unbiased opinion that their house sucks. Sure, they have a little more space, and a little more granite, but ours has better curb appeal and better lot. Plus I emptied a container of termites onto the property. Okay, not really, but I wanted to.

The very first person that looked at the house this week was a guy that loved it. We were unable to leave as his tour overlapped Connor’s in-home speech therapy, so we just sat on the porch until the therapist arrived. After the realtor left, he even came back and knocked on the door and asked about the neighbors. Then he brought his wife back that night. It just seemed too easy, right? I was nervous about the wife, and was right to be. She is said to have liked it a lot, but thought the living room too small. Ugh, women! Am I right? They only need to be in charge until it doesn’t benefit me. 🙂

I’m feeling a little better about it this evening though as we have another repeat show coming in the morning. A person who toured it this morning has it in their top 3, so fingers crossed.

Note the orange drool hanging down.
Note the orange drool hanging down.

We met with Connor’s neurologist yesterday, and we’re very excited that we are now weaning him off Sabril (vigabatrin). This is the med he started due to infantile spasms last September. His spasms have been controlled for quite some time, and we are hopefully past that hurdle. We’re really hopeful we’re done with this med. He’s still on Keppra, and now he’s starting Trileptal since he still has what we think are complex-partials that consist of him clenching his teeth, going slightly limp (not losing consciousness), puckering his lips and staring to the side for 10-20 seconds. We see roughly 1-2 a day, and some days none. The vigabatrin wasn’t curbing those, so since the spasms are done, no need we hope. He snaps out of them quickly and they don’t have the lingering effect of other seizures and make him fall asleep.

No more mixing those stupid powder packets, hoping UPS shows up with the meds, and no more ERGs and ophthalmology appointments! Since vigabatrin poses risk to peripheral vision, anyone with a prescription is required to have frequent eye exams and ERGs, which require him to be knocked out at the hospital. Fewer trips to Scottish Rite? Yes, please!

I recently discovered that insurance is being billed $7,000 a month for this particular prescription. And herein lies the heart of why our medical system is so jacked up. We’re so worried about everyone getting insurance, that we’re not paying attention to why everyone needs it so desperately in the first place. Big profit. The jacked up cost of medical care in this country, plus the complete lack of rhyme or reason to why things are priced the way they are, and the lack of uniformity in these prices is the problem. It took a very disturbing recent Time Magazine article to even make hospitals accountable for making their chargemaster lists public. Where else do we walk in to make a purchase completely blind to what kind of charges we’ll be facing in the end?

Sabril (vigabatrin) only received FDA approval a few years ago. Before that, most people got it from Canada. A months’s supply was a couple hundred bucks (I’ve seen people mention figures ranging from $100-$500 per month on the TSC boards). Since it was not approved, it was not covered by insurance. Now, that is a heavy fee on a monthly basis, but what can you do? Insurance isn’t going to pay for a non-approved drug. Well, then it got approved. How nice! Now insurance can pay for this important med that costs hundreds of dollars. Oh, but now it suddenly costs thousands! Now, I will say the manufacturer has a program called SHARE which offers co-pay assistance, so this drug that would probably cost people like us an astronomical co-pay of a grand or more, is actually affordable. We only pay $30. Some people pay nothing. I’m not aware of anyone being turned down. But it’s still profitable. Obviously this drug costs nowhere near $7,000 if Canada can sell it for a fraction of the cost. So even if insurance cuts a deal to pay only $4,000, and the patient gets a pass with the assistance program, those are big bucks. Connor’s last 3-day EEG

Colin Farrell- sundance

cost $12k just in room and board. And I couldn’t even get them to bring him a damn band-aid.

On a different note, I don’t know what rock I’ve been under, but I just became aware of the fact that Colin Farrell’s son also has a rare genetic disorder, even more rare, called Angelman Syndrome. I had only recently become aware of this disorder due to a Facebook page I follow of a woman whose son has it. I think it’s really awesome that he is speaking out about it and bringing attention to rare disorders. He recently spoke at an epilepsy event, as seizures are something that TSC and Angelman have in common. Very cool.