Most Canadians will testify to the fact that our medical system is severely stressed. Doctors are unable to educate, inform and provide intensive follow-up care that is needed to protect vulnerable people, such as Karly, who are made more vulnerable by the effects of powerful medications. As such, Long sees the need for the creation of a third party that would offer support to patients. Long wishes to be clear about her proposal: she is not leading a crusade against prescription medications; rather she acknowledges their usefulness and is in favor of their safe application. The mission is to implore pharmaceutical companies, the manufacturers and providers of prescription and over the counter medications, to complete the chain of production and prescription with vigilant support. Long sees the current lack of support as the reason Karly and countless others have lost their lives, and as a factor that is putting millions of people at risk.
The third party support and research team would consist of highly trained professionals with offices in accessible locations such as pharmacies. Members of the team would meet with the patients who have been prescribed medication(s) by their physician(s) for a mandatory follow-up to explain how to properly administer their medication(s), prevent and identify addiction; advise of any expected and/or possible behavioral/mood changes and side effects, and any relevant contraindications. Long came to include behavioral changes in her plan after hearing several stories of people feeling unwell, frightened, or shamed after taking their medications and therefore not wanting to continue taking the prescribed dosage. Long firmly believes that medications have the power to alter behaviors and thought processes leading to self destructive behavior, suicides, killings, and accidental deaths. Patients need to be aware of the potential devastating risks and have a body of professionals and accessible support to turn to if they are experiencing abnormal thoughts and/or feelings. It is therefore crucial that someone on the team be accessible at all times to coach, provide counseling, or suggest alternative treatments when applicable.
When the patient (of age) provides consent, the team could also liaise with family and/or friends that are willing and able to assist, thus strengthening the overall support system. This coach-patient relationship could be similar to that of the sponsor participant in the Alcoholics Anonymous model. This relationship would be potentially lifesaving for anyone managing a chronic condition or illness with a continuous need for medications at any age or stage of life. The team would be intimately aware of the patient and his/her progress with treatment and would be privy to such information as if a patient did not refill a prescription, for example, the coach would then contact the patient, determine the reason and help develop a solution.
Scheduled visits when picking up repeat or new prescriptions would allow for monitoring vital signs, behavior and mood changes. For some patients, blood and/or urine analysis could be necessary to be proactive in preventing any unwanted side effects or addiction and they would be identified, treated and or counseled. There would be a variance in the type of care needed as each case is unique. All patients would be expected and encouraged to visit their prescribing physician regularly. The team would be continually updated and alerted to any new side effects, complications and or contraindications of all medications. Physicians would in turn report any findings of their own.
It is acknowledged that the creation of a medication monitoring system would be a costly and time consuming undertaking as these skilled professionals would require extensive and ongoing medical and social service training. Pharmaceutical companies that participate and fund such a support service to its customers could potentially counter the cost of the program in that tragedies could be prevented and therefore their legal costs would decrease, patients who were taking medications in a safe and monitored scenario would hypothetically live long, healthy lives and therefore become long term customers of that company. Outside of pharmaceutical companies, it would also alleviate stress and reduce costs for hospitals, police, fire departments and 911 services.
These are ideas offered forth by a layperson; surely skilled representatives of the companies themselves and our government could find more ways of redirecting monies and resources to fund this program and creative ways to offset costs. It is clearly the humane and morally right thing to do. In the end the pharmaceutical companies manufacture and distribute medications and profit, rightly so, from them; it is therefore their responsibility to ensure that their products are causing no further harm to their consumers or the public at large.
To some this could seem like a great and difficult endeavor; it should not be. It should be a privilege – a reward and responsibility. It is an opportunity to improve the effects of medications, to grow and gain knowledge. It would benefit and protect the patient but most important of all, it would save lives. As a caring citizen of this country, Long looks to the government, to Health Canada and to all pharmaceutical companies and asks “To what lengths will you go to save lives?”