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View Diary: A New Iraq Situation You Haven't Seen Before (184 comments)

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  •  Actually, This is Pretty Common... (none)
    In a lot of developing countries, drugs which are legal but normally require a prescription are available without any such controls.  Either prescriptions aren't required, or the rules are enforced in such a lax manner that anyone can bribe a pharmacist for an extra dollar or two.

    I remember when I was a student at the American University in Cairo (during the first Gulf War), we used to buy generic antibiotics (ampicillin mainly) for the recurring stomach bugs we kept getting.  I don't know what the law is there, but when the pharmacist would ask about a "prescription," that was just a way of saying "another two dollars, please, because you're American."

    There was one American student that semester who, after discovering this, developed a pretty serious Valium habit...

    But anyway, I've experienced this is many places (I travel a decent amount in the developing world for my job).  The last time I was in Nepal, three months ago, I needed to get some Cipro for a bad intestinal bug, and without prompting, the pharmacist asked if I'd like some 'benzos' to help kill my jetlag...  (turned it down, btw.)

    •  Mexico (none)
      Last time I was in Mexico, one day we swung by the pharmacy and loaded up on some tasty meds.  It was great fun for a day, but knowing my personality I'd be a total junky if such pharmacies existed in MI.  But then the libertarian in me says, it's my right to be a junky if I like.  As in the example you gave, a person is always free to refuse drugs.

      Abusing antibiotics is a different matter.  Antibiotics are a societal drug, in other words, abuse of an antibiotic by one person can affect society as a whole.  The reason is that unnecessary and improper use of antibiotics selects for bacteria resistant to the particular antibiotic being used in a gradual process.  Sometimes the bacteria infect several people before a fully resistant strain evolves, and then this resistant strain is free to move through the population.  So in this sense, abusing antibiotics is far worse than enjoying a few Valium, because there is a risk of selecting for resistant bacteria that will inflict suffering upon the entire population.  At this point, the antibiotic loses its effectiveness and a new one must be developed to replace it.

      The solution is to only take antibiotics for bacterial infections, and then to take them for the entire treatment time (usually 10 days).  It's not always possible to tell what the nature of an infection is without a time-consuming lab culture, so doctors often pass out antibiotics for all sorts of viral infections, just to be safe (or sometimes to appease patients).  But to just take antibiotics anytime one gets sick is irresponsible and puts all of society at risk.

      "Revolutionary debris litters the floor of Wall Street." -Kurt Cobain, Diaries

      by Subterranean on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:48:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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