The High Price of Quinine

Note: This is a non-philosophical post, this time. If you're not interested in a rant, feel free to skip this one!

My doctor recommended that I take quinine to help with the side-effects of the cancer treatment. If I lived in Canada that would cost less than  $20  per month. But this isn't Canada. Here in the USA it costs  $160  per month.

Why? Apparently the American Food and Drug Administration got all excited because:

Up to 53 people per year die from misuse of quinine. 

So they restricted it. Now only a few drug companies can sell it in the USA. Which means that they can (and do) charge more than 8 times the price that it would be in Canada.

How nice for them! They managed to take a drug that is as old, well-known and easy to make as aspirin ... and they had it declared dangerous so they could control it.

But hey, 53 deaths per year in the USA — that's a good reason to control it, right? No.

Those 53 deaths are tragic, but in a population of 300 million it's a negligible risk. It's comparable to the number of Americans killed each year by lightning (around 30). More to the point, though:

Did you know that good old aspirin causes over 50,000 deaths per year in the USA (due to gastric bleeding)? Yeah, nearly 1000 times as many deaths, but it's not controlled like quinine.

Even the pharmaceutical companies can't figure out a way to get a near-monopoly on aspirin.

I can't afford to pay $160 per month for relief from something that isn't actually killing me. I guess I'll just have to live with the muscle cramps and diarrhea. Or move to Canada.

My doctor has, in the past, arranged for me to get certain very expensive meds free from the pharmaceutical companies. I don't want to sound completely hostile to them. The American system does have loopholes for people in dire straits. Sometimes it all works and everything's great. But not this time.


Open Letter to The Pandora Music Service

Subject:   Voice of the (English-Speaking) World — Suggestion for Service Enhancement


Dear Pandora Customer Service,

I was shuffling through the various genres on Pandora when it suddenly dawned on me that here we have pre-rolled “radio” stations WITHOUT disk jockeys. Yes, that might seem obvious, since that's what Pandora is, basically, but ... you could inject ONE world-class disk jockey, who speaks in the gaps of many stations at once (with appropriate time delays). He or she, being a live human rather than a computer program, would speak to the listeners from the point of view of somebody who is alive TODAY and can talk about TODAY.

That's how radio stations used to work. Sure, there were lots and lots of ads, but from time to time there was an honest-to-goodness human being telling you that you're not just listening to a machine. It gives you a sense of connection and even loyalty to the station/service.

Could Pandora have an all-stations host, broadcasting from (say) Greenwich, England, where GMT is “now”? I can imagine caring who's hosting if the right hosts were selected. The best hosts will fully take into account that their comments (which would be considered fresh for up to 5 minutes before expiring) will be broadcast on stations with wildly different content.

It would take skill on the part of the DJ, but it could work. Pandora could be  THE radio station of the world, starting with English hosts.

— — —

If Pandora has already thought of this idea, or cannot do it for genuinely insurmountable legal barriers, then I apologize for taking up your time with this idea.

Timothy Campbell


Postscript: As I expected, Pandora rejected this idea. I received an email that said, “Unfortunately, that's not currently a feature of Pandora. [It] would be difficult to implement given people's listening habits as well as listeners who have upgraded to Pandora One in order to forego interruptions.”

Wow, talk about utterly missing the point in precisely the manner I figured they would. The DJ wouldn't be an “interruption;” it would be part of the service.

Well, somebody else will eventually do it. Anybody want a billion-dollar idea? It'll only cost you a few million to get up to speed (plus my inventor's fee, of course).


The Secret, Interpreted

As I see it, there's nothing mystical about the principle described in the movie The Secret. Basically, it works like this:

— — —

You are tied to negative ideas about yourself as long as you hold on to them. If you cannot let go of those negative ideas you will be chained to that dismal starting point. You will usually be slightly better than your dour self-image but you can't stray far from it because you keep telling yourself that's the way you are.

That's stories, for you. Stories tell us, “This is how it happens.” The Story of Me says, “This is how you became what you are therefore this is what might happen next.” If the Story of Me tells me that I'm a criminal, I'll tend to behave like one.

So much for negative ideas. If I have positive ideas about myself, I will achieve more. I won't be my own worst enemy; I won't be nay-saying myself; I will proceed with confidence, making good use of creativity, not being sidetracked by emotional baggage etc.

— — —

If that's the message of The Secret then it sounds good to me.

A question occurs to me. Why should I have any thought at all about what I am? Even a “good” assessment of the self is still a self-centered assessment. How often need I be reminded what I am?

If I'm right about The Secret, then I might understand why (to the perplexity of many critics) the movie spent so much time talking about wealth. If the mind is seeking for things to be “good” then wealth is an obvious attraction.

Come to think of it, the movie did call its main principle “The Law of Attraction.” Maybe people's thoughts really can attract money, but only if money attracts the people back. To put it another way:

People who really like wealth
are more likely to get it than
people who don't care about wealth.

In this sense at least, it really does seem like there's a “Law of Attraction.” Personally, I'm attracted to writing blog articles like this one, so that's what happens.