Saturday, May 2, 2009


Ariel came down with the flu. And, aside from the whole swine flu hysteria, it wouldn’t be a big deal except that she has a Calculus 2 final exam on Monday. So, we had the option of treating it with Tamiflu. It’s supposed to cut down on the number of days you’re sick with the flu.

Being the responsible mother/wife that I am and knowing how little our insurance decides to cover, I called the pharmacy to find out how much this jewel of modern medicine costs.

The pharmacist said, “I can’t tell you without a prescription.”

Now, I’m confused. Then I thought, “Maybe it’s because he can’t be sure how much it will cost us with our particular insurance.” I said, “Can you tell me what the cost price is without insurance?”

Pharmacist: “No.”

Me: “Okay.” I can’t imagine there is a law preventing him from disclosing the cost of medications—so, maybe he doesn’t want me to comparison shop pharmacies. I mean, I completely ignorant of how pharmacies decide what price you pay for things, but comparisons are clearly out of the question. I said, “Thank you.”

Pharmacist: “Yep.”

I called all the numbers listed on the back of my health plan card. Apparently, every office closes at 5 pm, even the call this number before you are admitted to the hospital number. So, I check the insurance formulary on-line. According to the formulary the medication should run $80. In very fine print at the bottom of the page it said, “These prices are only averages and may not reflect the actual price.” Hmm. This does not bode well. What does “reflect” mean? Is it like “mirror twins”—close, but not exactly the same?

I call back the pharmacist, who now had the prescription. He informed me the cost was $120. One hundred and twenty dollars definitely does not reflect $80. Not only are they not “mirror twins,” they’re not even “kissin’ cousins.” They’re more like obscure “second cousins, twice removed.”

We decide not to purchase the medical marvel. And Ariel’s feeling much better today—last night we gave her vitamin C, Tylenol, and raspberry soda. I wonder if we could bottle a mixture of those products, call it Super-Deluxe-Get-Better-In-Time-For-Your-Final-Exam-Miracle-Cure, and market it. No, that’s name too hokey. How about Ariflu? And we could charge $10 and make a killing. No, you’d have to charge at least $80. The more people pay, the more they’re convinced it’ll work—and it’s that whole placebo thing we’re after.


  1. Ariflu? Hmm... Sounds like some sort of dangerous illness an individual gets when they spend too much time with anyone with a name remotely like "Ariel." Uh oh!! I better go warn Duncan!!

  2. That's quite funny, Andrew.

  3. No it's if they spend too much time with a individual that put in the ariel spot of "ariel jokes".

  4. What exactly were you thanking the pharmacist for? He certainly wasn't any help.

  5. Ariflu sounds like a strain of influenza that might at any time mutate to jump from Ariel to the rest of the human population.