Friday, June 30, 2006

Paper packages and cranberry squash

What do you do when you fall ill? You go the doctor.

According to my experience, going to the doc consists of the following steps:

1) Go to the doctor
2) Doc examines you, identifies the illness, writes out a prescription.
3) Take the prescription to the chemist, buy medicines, take them.
4) Get well.

But it works slightly differently in Mumbai.

1) Go to the doctor
2) Doc examines you, doesn't tell you what is wrong with you.
3) Doc's assistant puts 3-5 pills each into little paper packages, puts these packages into ziploc covers, and hands it to you. Each ziploc cover is for one day, and the contents of each paper package is to be taken after each meal.
4) Get well(???)

I discovered this paper-package phenomenon when one of my pg-mates, D, fell ill. Since we did not know any docs around, PG-Auntie took her to her family doctor. D came back with these paper-packages-in-ziploc-covers and a bewildered expression.

Me: What are these??
D: Medicines!
Me: For what?
D: I don't know!
Me: What did the doc say is wrong with you?
D: He didn't say!
Me: So you don't know what medicines you are taking, and for what illness?
D: No!
Me: Didn't you ask what these medicines are??
D: Of course I did! He said "How can I tell you my formula?"

I made her throw the tablets away, and dragged her to the OPD of a nearby hospital, without telling Auntie. There they diagnosed her sickness, and wrote out a prescription. We bought the medicines at the pharmacist, and got back. Ah, the comfort that comes with knowing what you are swallowing!

After that I did a lot of research. All the docs I enquired about in and around Andheri were the paper-packages-in-ziploc-covers types. So I took refuge in the OPD of the hospital, and brainwashed other pg-mates to do the same.

Once, my roommate R told me that someone told her about a good doc, and it looked like he is the prescription type. The next time I developed a sore throat that I couldn't cure on my own, I thought it was best to go and try out this doc. R came with me.

Scene at clinic -
The doc examines me.
Me: What's wrong?
Doc nods.
Me: Is it an infection?
Doc writes something on paper.
I reach out to take it.
Doc looks daggers at me, passes it on to assistant.
Assistant starts wrapping up little pills in paper packages.

I look daggers at R.
R looks at me apologetically.
Doc takes out a big white can that one normally associates with kerosene. Can contains a bright red sticky liquid which reminds one of cranberry squash. Doc pours out an amount into a small white leaky plastic container. Hands it to me along with the little paper packages.

Doc: After every meal, take the medicines in each packet and drink two spoons of this liquid.
Me: What are these medicines? What is this liquid?
Doc: (Glares at me) Sixty rupees.
I don't reply. I pay doc, and leave with R. Leaky bottle is disposed of right outside the clinic, and medicines are thrown away after being brought home and subjected to an unsuccessful scrutiny to determine what medicines they are.
Next morning sees me at good old hospital.

Now, why, you ask, can't I trust the doc and take the medicines that he hands over to me. Here is just one reason. Suppose I turn out to be allergic to something in the medicine, or a pill has some side-effect, and I need to be treated. Imagine the conversation.

Me: (Aaakkhhhkkhhghgkkghg) I have rashes in my throat! Please doc! Do something!
Doc: Have you taken any medication recently?
ME: (KKKGHHHHGHhhhhhh ) Yes!
Doc: What medicines?
ME: A large round white pill, a little red pill, half of a yellow pill, and an orange capsule. And cranberry squash.

I rest my case.


Inder said...

they sound pretty shady... self-taught and self-proclaimed doctors are all over the place.
lot of ayurvedic doctors too do not give prescriptions. they prepare their own medicines. they atleast tell their patients what the problem is...

Raj said...

That is extremely weird. How can a doctor not tell the patient whats wrong with him/her? And why do people allow then to do it? Dont they want to know whats wrong and what medicines they're gonna take? Its crazy.

Being the impatient guy that I am, I would have probably fought with the doctor if he didnt tell me what my illness was or wud have refused to take the medicines. You should have done that too.

Shruthi said...

Inder:Yeah.. but more than that I really wonder at the trust that patients place in them. I am not talking about uneducated people here, mind you!

Raj: It's crazy indeed! I was in shock for a long time after that first incident ;)
I did consider a battle of words with him, but remember, I had a sore throat, and I was weak with fever. I thought it was easier to just go out and throw the stuff away! :D

RT said...

It happened to me too once with a doctor in Andheri. I went to her because I was feeling feverish. She checked my temperature and declared I was normal. In spite of that, she gave me these "pudia"-type paper containers with dosage of 11 tablets each in round, heart, rectangle, oval and other shapes for the next 2 days. I simply threw them away. Why so many tablets after every meal for a non-existent fever???
Basically these medicines are nothing but placebos. They are just inert pacifiers. But they definitely did not pacify me. :-)

Sunil said...

Imagine this:
mum goes to Doc.
Gets a prescription,
Mum goes to "Good friendly 'knowledgeable'" medical store.
pharmacist looks at the prescription and exclaims, "I Didn't know yuu had high BP"...
mum freaks out, "I don't have High BP"...
the pharmacist calls up the Doc, and the doc appologises for a spelling mistake.

Forget the spelling mistake, it took 5 mins for all of us to decipher wots written in that prescription...

Wot do yuu say for THIS ?!

Mridula said...

We had this theory, for our on campus hospital: If you are wearing a red dress they give you white pills, if black, multicolored and the like ... Your narration sounds very similar :)

Anu said...

I didnt know there were still doctors like this, that too in a place like Bombay! Yes what Raj says is right. You should have just walked away without accepting the medicine. Ofcourse you should not have given him the money either!

Maverick said...

As everyone els do i too doubt the authenticity of the doc. I remember i had once taken an ayurvedi medicine, it was for yellow fever and was prepared out of some 'mystic' herbs, but the doc was good n very reliable n for free. he believed tht charging money for his medicine would depreciate the effect of his medicine. And i got cured very soon. I guess these are the authentic ayurvedi docs and then there are those (whom u described) who hide in the mask of the few good ones and deteriorates the reputation of the whole body.

Anonymous said...

These kind of Doctors are very common in Maharashtra and Gujarat. They are not fake doctors and the "medicines" are also not fake. They are just procured in bulk quantity from pharmacutical companies in Vaapi/Ankleshwar area. And also, these type of medicines are given by doctors who done only MBBS degree. Doctors with MD or higher degree do write the prescptions and ask the patients to purchase them.

I was staying in Baroda, Gujarat uptill last December and I had seen many doctors doing this of practice. Infact, in one of the occassions I had given a written police complaint against a "Family Physician" for giving me unbranded, multi coloured medicines. I got them tested in the Govt. Drug control lab and found that they were not harmfull but at the sametime they are not effective also.

There are many chemical and pharmacutical companies near Maharashtra-Gujarat border who are basically into manufacturing of raw materials for drugs. Sometimes they steal the formula of a popular drug and do little modifications in the composition and then they sell them to the local doctors.

Nirwa Mehta said...

That's shady all right!

But when there are people like me, who go to doctor asking him to cure sore throat and cold (that too because of succumbing to the pressure of my parents) and never take the medicines! :P

I cannot get myself to swallow those weird looking things and most of the tablets have become feast for the cockroaches and other insects in the drain! (no wonder they're so immune to anything now!)

Medicines is for losers! I throw them away! *Don't tell my parents*


Shruthi said...

RT: Yeah placebos, right? That's what I thought too! Correct, oval, heart shaped, and all colours possible... they actually look pretty :D or they look like Cadbury's Gems :D

Sunil: Ha!! What a mistake! Potentially dangerous too! :O
Of course, doctors' handwriting is notoriously illegible.

Mridula: Heh heh... that sounds interesting indeed :D

Anu: I was just bugged. Sometimes I am too lazy to fight. I find it easier to ignore ;)

Maverick: I haven't been to an Ayurvedic doc as such, but I find Ayurveda-based home remedies very good, for minor ailments!
Yeah at least one of the docs I heard of was an Ayurvedic doc who gave allopathic medicines.

Roopadarshi: That's a lot of very interesting info. Some of my questions were answered! Thanks a ton!

Nirwa: Yeah, medicines make you go green, I am sure!

RK said...

Shruthi: I have another method that I follow strictly on myself and only on myself:
1) Go to the Medical store and tell the guy what is your problem.
2) He gives the medicines
3) Get well(most cases)

rajeev said...

I was amazed to find that such 'village' docs exist in today's Mumbai. Roopadarshi's explanation did help - but I guess most would prefer Nirwa's way of 'No' medicine than the unknown medicine.

Viky said...

I usually go to our friendly neighbourhood chemist and tell him whats wrong, and he usually gives me the right meds. Case closed in one day.

Once, after a lengthy debate on "going to doctors" vs "going to chemists", I actually went to the doctor, after meeting the chemist, and he prescribed tablets which were of the same chemical formulation as the ones my chemist gave me.

Of course in case of severe problems, the doctor is the best person, but for common cold (for which there is no cure) and weather-incited problems, a trip to the chemists is not that bad an idea after all.

Viky said...

Hey, and what about those tents in sidewalks, who say they are yogis from Himalayas, and they will cure any ailment....

Shruthi said...

RK: Yeah that's one method, provided you have sufficient faith in the chemist's knowledge! :O

Rajeev: Yup it's always best to avoid medicines, as far as possible!

Viky: Hmm... after all pharmacists are also qualified.. but like I said, you need to have sufficient faith in them! But the best is to ask an experienced patient - like they say, An Old Patient is better than A New Doctor! :D

Shruthi said...

Viky: Those!! I always think that I should go and do an interview with one! I am sure they will be some interesting stories there ;)

Chitra said...

Hyuck hyuck...and I completely agree with you :D!!

PS said...

Hmm...keep in mind that this is only a very apparent sin by the doctor.
And you do not escape the fate by taking branded medicines - the current Vioxx recall (and plenty of other such recalls) only tells us that the pharma companies do not reveal the side-effects of the medications either. So, knowing which drug is being prescribed does not do jack. In this respect, taking some jadi-buti frm the roadside from those travelling clinics may be seen to be almost on par with taking a drug manufactured by a multi-national. In fact, the bigger the pharma company, the more i would mistrust them.
Like my doctor dad taught me right from childhood - only go to any doc if you cannot avoid it, and never take any medicine unless its absolutely essential.

Shruthi said...

Chitra: :D

Atrakasya: Good to see you here. Have read quite a bit of your stuff over at Dud Sea Scrawls.
Yup, I know, I have read enough thrillers on the pharma industrym, and then followed up on it, to know that you shouldn't ingest pills by the handfuls. I try home-remedies most of the time, and only when everything fails do I go to a doctor. But I don't really think that knowing the name of your medication is no big deal. Yes, it might cause unsuspected harm, but it sure beats the hell out of not even knowing what on earth you are swallowing. Any day!

Bhargav said...

It reminds me of a doctor who used to give colorful pills that he got for free as samples from medical representatives. My uncle was in the Med rep business and this doc gave the same free samples to him and charged him. Imagine what my uncle felt when he had to pay for the stuff that he had earlier given for free.

Shruthi said...

Bhargav: Oh man, what a situation to be in!!

SN said...

Shruthi! It's so hilarious!!! I'm laughing so hard and hope I don't wake my parents up.

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