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Doris and Alice on Big Pharma and Motorized Scooters

We had dinner with family friends Doris and Alice last night.  Doris is 90 and Alice is 91.  They have some strong opinions (they always do).  Doris and Alice gave permission for sharing their opinions on GeriPal, with their picture.
  • Big pharma is taking a hit, according to recent headlines.  Lots of drugs are going off patent and becoming generic.  Few new drugs are in the pipeline. Should we feel sorry for big pharma? Doris and Alice:  "No! We have enough drugs already."  The relentless profit incentive of big pharma drives up costs of drugs to levels that are bankrupting seniors and our economy. "They make too much money already." 
  • "Motorized scooters are a scam!"  Of course motorized scooters are a good thing for some folks who really can't walk.  But Doris and Alice find themselves bombarded with advertisements for motorized scooters.  They feel that the advertisements are disingenuous when they advertise themselves as "free" or "at no cost to you."  The cost is to our health care system, paid for by Medicare via our taxes, and these wheelchairs are never re-used.  Both are liberal politically - and still march in local rallies - but said "it makes me feel like a conservative republican to say this is fraud and abuse of our tax dollars." They also know of elders who have given up on physical therapy for the ease of getting around in a motorized scooter.  The ads imply that "anyone who wants one can have one - even if they're not disabled" They say, "intermediaries who sell these scooters are taking advantage of seniors." 
What do you think?

by: Alex Smith

Comments

Alex Smith said…
My mom who is 65 received a robo-call this morning saying, "if you or someone else in your home is on Medicare and using a cane or having mobility problems you may be eligible for a motorized scooter.". Too bad we don't have similar adds for physical therapy and walking. Outreach in and of itself isn't the problem. It's the profit that drives selected outreach of expensive devices that is problematic.
ken covinsky said…
The use and cost of motorized scooters are very difficult problems. I have always thought these devices are both vastly underused and overused.

On the one hand, their are a lot of patients who have very serious mobility problems who would get enourmous benefit. They refuse the soooter becasue they are afraid to acknowledge their mobilty problem, or because it is not offered to them. I have seen a number of patients have their life space mobilty restored with scooters.

On the other hand, the promotion and marketing of soooters is scandolous. The companies are very aggressive. The marketing is not based on doing good for patients but on extracting $$ from Medicare.

It is a shame Medicare is not allowed to negotiate for the best price on scooters. One wonders how much the price would fall if the soooter companies had to compete based on price and quality. Seems like a great opportunity to let free markets work.
Dan Matlock said…
Ken's points are well said - knowing who benefits from a scooter (in terms of increased mobility and a broader world) vs. who is harmed by a scooter (in terms of accelerated functional decline from losing the only exercise they were getting) is a vexing geriatric challenge.
Lynn O'Neill said…
I love that you had dinner with Doris and Alice. We all need a Doris and Alice in our lives with whom we can have intergenerational conversation away from our workplace!
Margo Smith said…
This from Doris and Alice themselves, reflecting on the original blog post during lunch today, 6/25/11.

Alice recalls the line from scooter commercials that scooters will be "paid in full," but wonders why each of these perfectly usable (and well compensated) devices must be discarded in favor of new sales when they are no longer needed by their owners. Is there no market for used ones?

Doris has noticed recently that scooter producers have lessened their advertising. She wonders whether these companies are embarrassed by attention to their suggestion that consumers can game the Medicare system.

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