Why Your Doctor Won’t Help You Prepare–And What You Can Do About It, by Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

This past week I had a pharmacy call me about a multi-year prescription I had written for a fellow prepper.  The pharmacy would not fill the prescription, and didn’t even know if was legal.  At first they told the patient I would have to write a note regarding the purpose of so much medication, and that the drug might not even be good beyond a year.  On further consideration, they informed him that he would have to get a new prescription written for a smaller amount.  It seemed they did not even want to keep the written prescription in their records (which are periodically reviewed).

It so happened that the state board of pharmacy was visiting that day and the pharmacist inquired as to what the law actually states.  I’m told the pharmacist was advised that they could not fill any prescription for more than one year into the future, even if the physician writes a note saying the patient is aware the medication will be considered out of date beyond a year.
This demonstrates just one of the obstacles to obtaining long-term medication for TEOTWAWKI that I’d like to address.  There are other barriers as well – perhaps you’ve encountered a few.

To begin, here’s my short list of reasons your doctor won’t help you prep:

  • He or she believes all is well – From your doctor’s point of view, tomorrow will be much like today, and on and on, indefinitely.  All this doomsday stuff is mere malarkey. 
  • Your doctor may be an employee – Even if he’s a hard-core survivalist, your doctor is obligated to comply with his employer’s policies.
  • Your physician is afraid of getting in trouble – How many people are looking over your doctor’s shoulders?  To name a few, your physician may be answerable to partners or peers, a practice manager, a hospital or other employer, pharmacies, drug boards, the DEA, insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, the state medical board, and no doubt the IRS.  Would you risk losing your license and livelihood under these conditions?
  • Your doctor thinks you’re a nut – Perhaps your questions are perceived as paranoia rather than preparedness.
  • Depending on your condition, your doctor may fear you’ll hurt yourself – Medical concerns include overdosing, under-dosing, not recognizing certain side-effects, drug interactions, necessary lab tests, and many others.
  • Your doctor does not want to be responsible for someone he or she is not seeing regularly – Current law requires a doctor to oversee a patient’s care on a regular basis, and to document this in a legal medical record.  Physicians are required to document every prescription written or dispensed, as are pharmacies.  Doctors are responsible for treatment regimens we prescribe.
  • Your physician may fear lost income – Doctors still have to make a living, which is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly for primary care physicians.
  • Society as a whole and medical providers as well believe the field of medicine should be left to professionals – The person who learns enough to care for himself may be more feared than respected, a loose cannon beyond societal norms.

The point of this list isn’t to make you give up, but rather to recognize and quantify the challenge.  There is much you can do, depending on your motivation.  You, too, can make a difference.   
So here’s a list of suggestions to overcome the above obstacles:

  • Convince your doctor that all is NOT well – When you see your doctor, take a brief moment to ask a question about the economy, or where our medications come from, or what you should have on hand if a tornado strikes, or how your community is set to handle a disaster like Hurricane Katrina.  
  • Learn whether your physician is an employee – If so, don’t expect much cooperation in the prepping department.  You may want to seek out a second, independent medical professional.  Solo practitioners are becoming a rare breed, but are much more likely to be independent thinkers.
  • Don’t put your doctor at risk – Ask only for small favors, perhaps an extra month of medication at each visit. 
  • Don’t act like a nut – Doctors appreciate patients who act responsibly, who know the names and doses of their medications, and who follow-through on agreed-upon treatment plans.  There could come a time when your doctor comes to you for advice on a preparedness issue.
  • Educated yourself thoroughly about your own medical condition, medications, and other treatments – There is nothing that prevents you from studying up on your own disease.  Your doctor likely has more clinical experience, which is an enormous advantage, but otherwise you can learn an great amount about any medical condition.  A good place to start is with the American Academy of Family Physicians journal which is online free at www.aafp.org.  You should know the common side-effects, potential for poisoning, and common drug interactions for all your medications.  Although doctors are aware of many of these, they cannot memorize them all.  A free online Interaction Checker is available at www.drugs.com.
  • If you have a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.) see your doctor regularly – I cannot emphasize this enough.  The point is not only your current care, but your future health as well.  If you demonstrate trustworthiness in small things (such as keeping appointments), your doctor is more likely to trust you with bigger things (such as extra medication or a prescription for antibiotics for a future need). 
  • And now for the fine print – I recognize the above will only get you so far.  I strongly advise taking advantage of your current freedoms.  Currently you are allowed to seek medical care from more than one physician, perhaps one within your insurance network and one out-of-network, or even in a different city.  Currently you are free to obtain prescriptions from more than one pharmacy.  Currently you have access to a vast and amazing array of effective over-the-counter medications, about which I’ve written previously.  Currently you are permitted to acquire a wide variety of A-B rated USP generic antibiotics intended for aquarium use.  Currently you have access to as much medical information as physicians enjoy.  Currently you have the freedom to acquire medical items for potential future barter.  Currently there is no restriction regarding obtaining medical skills for personal use, such as suturing and casting, as taught in my classes and elsewhere.   Currently you can acquire insulin over-the-counter.  Currently desiccated thyroid replacement may be obtained without a prescription.  Currently herbal medications are available in abundance.  Currently you can purchase new or used books on physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic.  Currently you have the freedom to attend EMT or nursing school, even if you don’t intend to pursue a career in the field.

Fortunately there is much you can do to build your self-reliance in the medical arena, but it cannot be accomplished overnight.  An abundance of free information to get you started is available at my ArmageddonMedicine.net web site, and I suggest reading my other articles in the SurvivalBlog archives. (Put “Koelker” in the Search box.)