January 5, 2009

Dear Patients:

Each year, I write a letter to the patients of our practice.

There are several purposes for the annual letter.

Dr. Sanders and I feel that it is important to communicate to our patients some issues that we feel are affecting our community. We also like to share some of the things that have gone on in our personal lives.

My wife Cammy and I are doing well. We had a scare last month; I had a detached retina and needed emergency surgery. It was a very difficult surgery, and I had to inconvenience many of you with cancelled appointments. Times when you are sick make you realize how important your health is as well as the health of the people you love. My wife took great care of me, and although my eye is sore and swollen, it works fine. For those patients who knew about it, thank you for your prayers and good wishes ~things like that mean a lot to me.

Dr. Sanders’ health and life have been, thankfully, much less dramatic. He’s been here for three years now, and he keeps telling me how happy he is here. He tells me how nice the people here are. Many of you might not know this, but Dr. Sanders was a lawyer at a big firm in New York City for some time before entering medical school. I joke with him that after being a lawyer in NYC, people almost anywhere would seem nice (If there are any lawyers reading this, please understand ….. that was a joke).

As you may know, Dr. Sanders and I are big believers in supporting our community. We take great pleasure when we are able to sponsor local organizations and events. And while we are not able to accommodate every request, we help when we can. For the past two years, we have been able to sponsor a “Big Band” concert in the Town of Tradition. This year, Treasure Coast Dermatology will be sponsoring the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (though not yet announced at the time of writing this letter, rumor has it that the concert is scheduled for January 25th – so be sure to save the date!).

There are some important issues that I want to mention:

The first of these issues is drug costs. Although some companies are trying to lower the costs of medicines, I see many on fixed incomes suffering because of costly prescriptions. There was recently an article in the New York Times that described a drug that costs pennies to produce per pill. The maker of this drug was charging six dollars per pill. But recently, this medicine has been found to be effective in the treatment of certain types of cancer. So what did the company do? Well, they raised the price of the medicine to $180 PER PILL (yup, they took it from six dollars per pill to 30 times that amount). The price increase” . .. reflected the medicine’s value … “

What that means is, as they found new uses for the medicine, they realized (because it was now being marketed to desperate patients dying of cancer) they could charge MORE! Look, America was built on capitalism, but this is obscene. It didn’t cost them any more to make it. This would be like a seatbelt manufacturer charging you each time the seatbelt locked and saved you from being injured. I don’t think the drug maker should receive more compensation for making a drug that is just doing what it is supposed to do. It is supposed to help people become healthier and save lives. Just like a seatbelt. Just because it helps in more and different diseases doesn’t mean the cost of it to the patient should skyrocket! Please write your Congressman about these issues.

Another issue that has recently come to our attention is the misuse of information. There are medical groups using tragic pictures of people who have had melanomas in an attempt to gain patients. Using scare tactics in order to get patients is wrong. Dr. Sanders and I are against this practice. The way to get intelligent people to take care of themselves is not to scare them, but to appropriately explain the importance of regular skin checks and sun protection.

Let’s look at John McCain; here is a man who survived POW camps and MULTIPLE treatments and surgeries for melanoma. And he just ran for President! He was able to beat the disease because he gets regular checkups. The vast majority of melanomas that we find are treatable and people go on to live normal lives with the exception of having to see their dermatologists a little more often.

Please don’t be scared or threatened by these tactics. Use the common sense that we all have and get checked regularly.

Now, on to another serious issue: Our country is in crisis. I know of no one who is better off this year than last year. Everyone I know has seen their retirement accounts dwindle, their houses fall in value, and have friends and family members losing their jobs. It seems the greed of the few has affected the well being of us all. Unfortunately, the older and retired segment of our community has been hit the worst. I keep reading in the paper how every stock advisor tells us to wait it out; the market (whether it be the stock market, the housing market or whatever) will eventually recover. It’s true that I am younger and still working, and my generation might be able to wait. But I see many of my patients, who worked hard and lived modestly all of their lives, lose their pensions, their houses, and their savings.

I certainly do not know the answer to our country’s financial problems, but I pray and hope that the elderly generation, the ones who have built and sacrificed for this country, will soon be able to live in comfort and security.

What can we do in the meantime? I don’t know what the right thing to do is. But I do know that, as Americans, we have a diverse country. We are a country of many peoples who have different backgrounds and beliefs, but in the end, we all consider ourselves as “One Nation”. These are not empty words to me. I believe that together we have the ability to overcome the issues and threats that confront us. I don’t know the right way to fix our problems, but isolating ourselves from our Fellow Americans is the wrong way to go about it. So at the party we are having, please introduce yourself to the others at your table. Help each other in the lines. We just had a bruising presidential campaign, but whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I believe we all consider ourselves Americans first.

Dr. Sanders and I have been friends for about 25 years. Recently, we were talking about family; he has two brothers, and I have two sisters. He said that as the older brother, he would often get into fights with the younger two and try to beat them up (boys will be boys). But, as the big brother, if anyone else tried to hurt his siblings (in school, on the playground or anywhere else), they would have to go through Jon first. He was the only one allowed to beat up his brothers; he protected them from everyone else. No one else was allowed to come near them.

This story relates to my bringing up the election. At times, we might beat each other up a bit, but when push comes to shove we are Americans, brothers and sisters, first.

I appreciate the support that you all have given to our practice over the past several years. Dr. Sanders and I along with the entire TCD staff look forward to seeing you at the party.

Best wishes to all,

Tim Ioannides, M.D.