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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Mathematics

I guess that I am pretty fortunate in that I am fairly good at basic math. I can figure out a lot of stuff in my head, and given a scrap of paper and a writing instrument, I can fairly reliably do all sorts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Percentages, no problem. I did pretty well with the geometry basics in school but algebra left me cold. Quite honestly, when a teacher asked me the question about two trains on the same track, one going thirty miles per hour and the other going forty miles per hour, and how soon would they crash, the question seemed idiotic to me. Why in the world wasn't someone calling the engineers to make sure there wasn't a crash at all? Any way, you get the point, I think. I can actually do my budgeting and such without the use of spreadsheets (it's certainly not high finance anyway!) and if I wish I can add everything up on paper rather than using a calculator. I can even keep track of how much I am spending in the grocery store in my head, usually within a dollar or two. So charmingly old-fashioned, right?  

Which leads me to something that happened today that one could either see as aggravating or downright scary, or even both. Going along with our usual luck, it just happened to be about a prescription refill that I ordered last week. It would just have to be something to do with pills, right? 2015, the Year of The Pill. Blech. So, I order a refill of the pills that keep my blood from clotting too much, and there are no refills available. My mail-order pharmacy is kind enough to send a request to my doctor's office for a new prescription. Doctor Mike is kind enough to get back to them right away with an updated prescription which includes new dosage instructions. Beautiful, right?

Now, I won't even mention that I got about half a dozen emails about this refill, saying it can't be filled because it is expired, then that a new prescription was received, and lather, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat. I won't go into that at all, or that I was not really sure whether it would really be filled or not. I'll start with getting the email saying that it had been filled and shipped. Huzzah! Check the status on our website and have a groovy day.

So I checked the website and started to not have a groovy day. I looked at the quantity of pills shipped and it was, well, totally wrong. Even if you can't do much math, you'll be able to see how there was a boo-boo. I take 1 pill three times a week and 1 1/2 pills four times a week. That adds up to 9 pills per week. The pharmacist who filled my prescription for a 90 day supply decided that 97 pills would last me 90 days. Even without running any numbers it was obviously wrong to me. So I did several simple bits of math and figured out that I was shorted by 20 pills. Hey, people make mistakes, no big deal.

If you think about it, 90 days is approximately 13 weeks. Well, 13 weeks equals 91 days, but close enough. So 9x13=117. Easy-peasy. Or so I thought. So I made the dreaded phone call. Customer service, when I finally reached them, could not answer the question, but did remind me that the refill was for a 90 day supply. Yes, I knew that, but they reminded me of it again. Let's get a pharmacy tech on the line, shall we? We did, and she asked customer service to stay along for the ride. I explained my simple math to the tech who reminded me again that it was refilled for a 90 day supply, and how many pills I take on which days of the week. I replied that it was 13 weeks minus one day and that I take 9 pills per week, and I was only getting 97 in the mail instead of the 117 I should be receiving.

Pharmacy tech tried to make poor dumb Katrina understand by trying to break it down into smaller numbers. Here is an almost direct quote: "You take 1 pill three days a week. Three a week times 90 days is 270. Then-" I interrupt her to tell her that her numbers are wrong (following her computations I would have been sent about 630 pills for 90 days!) and she decides that I am too dumb to learn so she will put a pharmacist on the phone. I fully expect to see my husband holding a fire extinguisher at this point because he is probably afraid that my head will burst into flames. Tom the pharmacist gets on the line and says they base the number of pills dispensed on the average pills taken per day times 90, and that I should have been sent 117 pills. The extra 20 will go in the mail right away. I am very grateful that she got someone on the phone who is as bad at math as she thinks that I am. 

I am glad to know that the techs only dispense the pills, they don't decide the amounts that are required. But it scares me a bit. No, this isn't a pair of runaway trains. But medications can extend or, if incorrect, can end people's lives. It's still important to have the proper mathematics.