When I returned home after serving in the Vietnam War, I had no idea the atrocities I endured there would impact my health some 50 years later.
As a Vietnam veteran and a retired policeman, I am anything but comfortable right now. In the past few years, I have developed chronic pain in my feet and legs. My feet are sore, and I feel like I have pins and needles burning into my feet and up my limbs.
After countless doctors’ appointments and tests, I was diagnosed with a form of peripheral neuropathy. Basically, the pathways that run between my brain and my body have been damaged, causing painful neurological misfires and mixed signals.
While there are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, my doctor thinks my exposure to agent orange may be the cause. Sadly, I’m not alone. Across the country, more than 300,000 American veterans have died from agent orange exposure, and countless more have gotten sick like me.
I’ve been living with my peripheral neuropathy for years now, and it still hasn’t gotten any easier to manage. Some days the discomfort is worse than others, and it interferes with my life every day. The pain can be so debilitating for me that it can be hard to walk or even perform simple, everyday tasks.
Across the nation, 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral neuropathy, and that number includes many veterans. I know I speak for everyone who has been diagnosed that we need to find a solution to this disease.
While there are a range of different treatment options for my condition, there is no cure. Doctors have prescribed everything from antidepressants and seizure medications to topical treatments. Nothing has made a real difference.
I’m grateful that our nation’s pharmaceutical industry is working to research my condition and uncover innovative treatments. But creating new medications does not just happen overnight. Between the research, testing, clinical trials, and approvals, bringing new medicines to market can take many years.
Given this complex process and high demand from peripheral neuropathy patients, now hardly seems like the time to pass federal legislation that could hinder research efforts. Regrettably, some in Congress are currently considering policies that could do just that.
If these politicians had their way, the government would be able to set the prices of prescription medications. Under these price setting policies, veterans like myself might not be able to access prescriptions we now use, or ultimately see a cure for peripheral neuropathy. By one Congressional Budget Office estimate, these sorts of policies could mean 60 fewer new treatment options in the next 30 years. We cannot let that happen.
After serving our country, veterans deserve access to the best treatment options. So, instead of making it harder for researchers and scientists to do their jobs, I ask Congress to support the industry that is trying to find the cure that we desperately need.
Gary Miner is a small business owner in Reno.
- OPINION: Veterans Need Innovative Care And Treatment - April 25, 2022