Report from Iraqi Kurdistan part 3 – What I learned

This final commentary on my recent experiences describes what I learned from the trip that can be useful back home in Tennessee.
First on the list is a very practical piece of information. There is a medication called tranexamic acid that is used for women who have such severe menstrual bleeding that they develop anemia. This medication is not a hormone, but it reduces blood loss. It would therefore be good for women who are unable to safely can’t take hormones due to side effects or other risk factors.
I’ve never been able to use tranexamic acid even though it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The problem is, this medication is expensive in East Tennessee. When I’ve tried to prescribe it, the insurance companies have declined to fill it; the patients therefore don’t have access to this treatment. The medication first became available in Europe in the 1960’s, and I learned on my trip that it is commonly used in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its puzzling; here we have a 50+ year old drug that is readily available to patients in economically devastated areas of the world, but I can’t prescribe it to my own patients here in East Tennessee due to cost. This is ridiculous. As a doctor, there is nothing I can do about it. If I become the Congressman for Tennessee District 1, I promise to address unreasonable pharmaceutical prices.
Healthcare is an important employer in Erbil, Iraq, and this gave me the opportunity to think about healthcare as an economic driver for a region. It turns out that healthcare jobs are also a top source of employment in Tennessee District 1. We need to protect our healthcare sector not just for the health of our citizens, but also for the benefit of our economy.
In Iraq, people who were once shooting at each other are now learning to address problems in other ways. A conference attendee said to me, “That’s the great thing about America, you can work things out and solve problems.” My first thought was, “Hmmm- I guess you haven’t been reading American newspapers lately,” but then I decided she had a point. Although we are not doing a great job solving problems, we are trying to work things out within our political system, not with guns and bombs.
Peace through healthcare initiatives work because even enemies can often agree that good healthcare is a beneficial to all citizens. So, as we Americans strive to heal from the divisiveness that we are currently experiencing, we need to recognize that working first on things that most people agree about can be a key to propelling us all toward a brighter future.