Monthly Archives: October 2010

No plausible defense of soda

At my kids’ last dental checkup, I joked with my dentist how candy may be the cause of cavities, but Halloween keeps his business afloat.  He smiled, almost wistfully, and replied that Halloween barely makes a dent;  real business success depends upon  indulgent parents who fail to put the brakes on soda.

When my kids were young they would often request soda while they accompanied me grocery shopping  and my answer was always the same, “soda is against our religion”.  This usually drew chuckles from passersby but I could get away with it.   My kids never questioned the validity because  it never really mattered enough to them to invest in an argument.   As they grew they learned we can treat ourselves to a soda on occasion, but that’s the operative word ‘treat’, something enjoyed infrequently.  But then the “bad influencers” came a calling; my in-laws who drink coke as if it were being mainlined into their arteries via an IV drip.    This was not just a case of the kids pestering their parents who then capitulated, but the parents themselves that sprang to action for the ‘coke run’, an  8 liter a day habit.  Over the years I have seen their wastelines expand and witnessed their children smuggling  soda  in their backpacks to ‘get by the day’ in case they don’t come across any place to buy soda”.   My nephew even based his first car purchase  on the refrigerated panel  in the dashboard for soda cans.    I am fortunate to claim no member of my family, immediate or extended, has a vice dangerous enough to land them a room mate like Lindsay Lohan, but I assume this is what an addiction looks like.  And so, last Christmas break during their annual visit, I embarked on an intervention.

I banned soda from my household with the exception of our holiday party.    Begging and pleading soon turned to chants of  “Evil Aunt Ellen”!   My neices and nephews would tell their tale of deprivation to all their friends south of the Mason Dixon line, who listened with such sympathy as if they had endured the same  torture tactics employed at Guantanamo Bay.

So as I head into what is the most dreaded weekend for those of  who care what our dentist thinks, I have no worries; my kids, more than most, can indulge, moderately, in all things Nestle and Mars since they have been spared years of cumulative tooth rot from soda.   For my part, I am looking forward to raiding my kids candy bags, guiltlessly.

What a company’s profits say about our health

Recently it was reported that the average US child’s diet is 40% empty calories.    I put a snack in my child’s lunch, and a snack when my child returns and of course they continue to graze for any non-organic snack choice  in the evening.  I tried removing all artificial snack products only to be surrounded by towering surly teens,  and me, without my mace!  But I also  found myself gaining weight because instead of the couple cookies with milk at night to satisfy my sweet tooth,  I had to resort to concocting peanut butter sandwiches out of Life cereal, much more fattening and less satisfying, at least to my taste buds.

General Mills’ earnings report last month of a 12% gain due to its cereal and cereal snack bar lines is evidence that American family cupboard is moving away from cookies, and candy, well at least until Halloween.   Companies are following suit:  Nestle announced it will allocate significant R & D towards a healthier food product line.   And after months of trying to deflect criticism for its diet-poor offerings, claiming obesity was caused by lack of exercise, Pepsico finally caved and announced it too would join in the effort, creating its own healthy and nutritious product line.   All good news for consumers, but how will this be accomplished? with chemicals in a lab? or on a field of genetically mutated crops?  Will the FDA exercise oversight, or even common sense, over the genetic engineering that will bring us mutant sized salmon, and produce?   For every action there is a reaction,  from the most renown:  African killer bees that were introduced in Brazil to maximize honey production went on to kill 1,500 people, to the-not-yet determined: the increase of allergies in this era of cross bred crops.   How this mass effort plays out will be a testament as to what means and methods are accepted to maximize nutrition and yield in organic/raw materials and their derivative products.   Get ready for next year’s Halloween scare: Frankenfood.

Vegetarians and the Tower of Babble

Each week we receive inquiries as to when we will offer a Vegan or Vegetarian diet.dietary list of avoidance terms.  I wish it were that simple.   Early last winter we released a Vegetarian, and a Vegan diet.   We thought we had provided a necessary and valuable solution but then the icky stuff  hit the fan and kept coming.    Our Lacto Vegetarians did not appreciate being lumped in with the Lacto-ovo Vegetarians, and even less so with the Pesci Vegetarians.   Vegans objected to the term “Vegetarian” claiming  they were actually ‘carnivores’ and we were facilitating  their masquerade.

We were completely caught off guard by the backlash and sounded the retreat, pulling the categories from our diet list and instead provided a custom diet box for our subscribers to enter whatever avoidance terms they wish.  We have contacted several organizations but none wish to provide a list of substances to avoid, claiming there is little consensus over the various categories.

Refreshing then, to find the Vegan Society, the world’s oldest Vegan and Vegetarian organization,  has only two categories and the support of the UK’s Food Standards Agency.   They don’t provide a list ot avoidance terms either, but they certify UK products by both/either category when manufacturers voluntarily report them.  It would be quite a game changing accomplishiment if just one of the many US organizations dedicated to providing this dietary guidance would step forward and do the same as this is one governance model worthy of adoption.

A king’s ransom for your prescriptions-cheaper to buy illegal ones!

We need to really legalize drugs, even the legal ones.  That may sound redundant but I have come to realize the prescription drug market is priced on a whim.   This past weekend, I dropped off my son’s prescription at my local CVS, Clearly Victimizing Shoppers.   I received a call from the Pharmacist that the cost would be nearly $600.00!  I asked, “did it go through my insurance”? The reply was, “yes, without your insurance it would be twice that”.   $1200 for a one month supply of acne medication?  So I did what any logical person would do- I contacted my insurance company and the drug manufacturer.

My prescription insurer, Caremark, initially stated the same as the CVS pharmacy staff, but upon further investigation, it turns out that CVS/Caremark has an unusual description of “coverage”.  According to CVS,  they are providing a  ‘discount’ to Caremark [CVS and Caremark are one and the same company], and informs Caremark that instead of charging me $1200, as they would non-CVS Caremark customers, I get it at 50% discount.   In actuality,  no insurance benefit was paid for this prescription, nor any other acne medications I have purchased.  I had been repeatedly and incorrectly advised all these years.

To dispute this ‘discount’, I contacted other local pharmacies for the costs to purchase the prescription without insurance, and was quoted $520-538.   I decided to then get quotes for all my son’s previous acne medications that CVS charged $179 for, and once again, without insurance the prices were lower $122-154.  As for the generic drug manufacturer, it was alarmed; it had never sold, nor heard of any third party, e.g., PBM, pharmacy benefit manager, selling the drug for such excessive fees and is investigating.

I learned my lesson; even when you question, don’t assume you are being told the truth, and this was a costly lie, to the tune of several hundred dollars.   Knowing that my insurer does not cover this,  means at even the lowest quote, it will run me over $2,500 for my son to be treated with this generic drug, which would have been good to know BEFORE I started shelling out my hard earned money, and I would  have taken better advantage of my health flex spending account to afford this precription.

As in all things, knowledge is power, and I have learned that CVS charges more for prescriptions than any other pharmacy/pharmacy department in my area and probably yours too.  Better yet, I discovered a cheaper source in the UK where it will cost me one third of what I would have to pay in the states, even though it is manufactured here.  Who knew?