A Day At The Local VA: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up - Part 2 of 3

Written by veterans  |  06. July 2006

I don't know what sums this up better - duh or huh. But in either case read on to learn how years of practical empirical evidence can be easily overruled in favor of "...but they said..." Oh yes, you can learn a little about the VA's new online medical system, too. Our Old Friend, The Good The VA has an online medical information system open to all - MyHealtheVet (http://www.myhealth.va.gov/). In the VA's own words (which will soon take on added meaning), "My HealtheVet ("MHV")... provides access to trusted health information, links to Federal and VA benefits and resources, the Personal Health Journal, and now online VA prescription refill." Let me repeat one phrase, "provides access to trusted health information." Now what might be one of those "trusted health information" facts? Oh I don't know - let's pick the first thing that comes to mind: Quinine Sulfate (a rigged "first thing that comes to mind" if I ever saw one). Going to MHV's medical library (MedlinePlus - "Trusted Health Information For You" - there's that word "trusted" again) and searching on Quinine Sulfate you can eventually find yourself at the definition of Quinine (Systemic) (it seems that Quinine Sulfate is now going by just-plain-old Quinine) (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/uspdi/202499.html). Quoting several lines from that entry... "Quinine (KWYE-nine) is used to treat malaria." Nothing new there - if you served in Vietnam or in any similar areas you took your Quinine pills, regularly. "Quinine may also be used for other problems as determined by your doctor." Interesting, maybe (you see it coming?). "Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it is also useful for other medical problems. Although these uses are not included in product labeling, quinine is used in certain patients with the following medical conditions: Babesiosis (infection caused by parasites) and Nighttime Leg Cramps. Nighttime leg cramps? You don't say! One last quote: "Other than the above information, there is no additional information relating to proper use, precautions, or side effects for these uses." Proper Use - not exactly "trusted," but what the hey - I'll trust it. As many dialysis patients can tell you, without their Quinine Sulfate (look, I still call an ice-box an ice-box, and the word jukebox has much meaning to me - Pizza D'Amore, Mid-Island Plaza circa '60s, we played their jukebox - 3 tunes for a quarter - while we ate their square pizza, but I digress). As I was saying, dialysis patients can tell you, without their Quinine Sulfate their nighttime leg cramps are unbearable. And while I am not a dialysis patient myself, one of my Agent Orange herbicide dioxin inflected ailments gave me four years of severe nighttime leg cramps until a dialysis patient told me about Quinine Sulfate pills and I started taking them, regularly. And The Other One We Also Know, The Not So Good It seems that a few months ago, someone in some governmental agency whose "voice" is listened to at the VA, decided that since Quinine Sulfate's uses - the ones included in its product labeling - do not include "to relieve" nighttime leg cramps, then Quinine Sulfate really isn't something that should be "given out" (I've used those two words on purpose as you'll soon read) to relieve nighttime leg cramps. It doesn't matter that there are years of proof as to how well it works - for me the very first night I took it was the very first night I had no nighttime leg cramps in four years. It doesn't matter that the "medical industry" recognizes this alternative use. Nor does it matter what the VA's own online medical information reads. For a number of months now the VA pharmacy has not given out Quinine Sulfate when prescribed for the relief of nighttime leg cramps! There's that "given out" again. You see, the VA doctors continue to prescribe it - after all, it works. And they will give you a "white" prescription (VA slang for an actual hard-copy prescription versus the usual electronic prescription used by the VA pharmacy) if you ask for one. Which you then can take to your local main-street pharmacist to be giv..., er, have filled. As to who said what that resulted in the current situation seems to be the $64,000 question. At one time we were told the VA was having difficulties in obtaining Quinine Sulfate. However, after three months, and with the local pharmacies having no problems, that story wore thin. And if there is a third version for the reason why Quinine Sulfate prescriptions for relieving nighttime leg cramps are not being filled by the VA pharmacy, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure. You just can't make this stuff up. --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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