Depending on who you are, you may have been celebrating the one year anniversary of healthcare reform yesterday, or you may have been working on healthcare reform’s repeal, but however you feel the legislation, we’re still working on helping everyone find affordable healthcare and health insurance. And so today, we’re sharing a recent Los Angeles Timescolumn on the story of Mark Erdman who just a few years ago was a prosperous businessman, and is now a sad reminder of what is happening to way too many newly unemployed and uninsured Americans in this country:
Then the construction industry crashed with the recession, and like so many Americans, Erdman fell on hard times. His business went belly-up, he was unemployed for a while, and when he finally found a sales job, it didn’t come with insurance benefits or enough pay to cover a private plan.
So he muddled along without insurance. When he got a toothache, he could afford neither a visit to the dentist nor a sick day to nurse the pain. Acetaminophen (generic Tylenol) and ibuprofen (generic for Advil and Motrin) became his main source of treatment, and Erdman took too much of both, more than the recommended daily dose, his wife said.
What the Erdmans didn’t know they learned the hardest of ways: While such over-the-counter meds are safe and effective when used as directed, they can be poison in excessive amounts. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration calls acetaminophen overdose the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, and a recent Los Angeles Times article said such overdoses resulted in 40,000 calls to poison control centers in 2009 alone.
For Mark Erdman, the eight pills he took every day for a couple of weeks so damaged his liver, doctors told the family, he would need an emergency transplant. But Erdman was unable to get Medicaid coverage in time. On March 10, he was declared brain dead and removed from life support.
If you are uninsured, we know that it’s more than likely that you’re using OTC drugs to help you get through some things that you’d probably see a doctor or dentist for if you had health insurance or some money to pay for an appointment. We know, we’ve all done it before during some hard times, and we’re not going to try to tell you that there’s some better answer if you’re uninsured and are out of a well-paying job right now. But we will tell you to try to be careful with your use of OTC drugs, and if you’re unsure of how to use an OTC drug, try to find a family member or friend to help you. The Mark Erdman story is sad because it was all so avoidable. Maybe he would not have been able to save his tooth, but with some care, he very well may have been able to save his life.
How do you use OTC drugs? Tell us about it!
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