The Vogon’s toe

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
31 March, 2023

Anyone who has read Douglas Adams's excellent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows about the Vogon race of Vogsphere – the galaxy’s natural bureaucrats.

They’re officious and callous.

They’re stubborn.

And their poetry is not strongly recommended.

If you believe, as I do, that significant parts of New Zealand’s bureaucracy are in fact Vogons in disguise, observing our bureaus helps fill in important gaps in Douglas Adams’s account.

Medsafe may well be a Vogon outpost.

As Adams described things, a Vogon would not even save its own grandmother from being eaten by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without “orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters.”

Getting the paperwork right is the most important thing.

Adams never explained whether the vaguely humanoid Vogons have toes. But Medsafe’s decisions last week led me to conclude that they must.

You see, if a Vogon's grandmother had an ingrown toenail, getting the paperwork just so would matter tremendously.

Last week, Medsafe decided that contrary to its prior determinations, the main chemicals used by podiatrists in treating ingrown toenails are not podiatric medical appliances.

If they were medical appliances, podiatrists could continue using them for some thirteen to fourteen thousand ingrown toenails per year.

Medsafe now believes that these chemicals are in fact medicines. That does not make them any less suitable for fixing stubborn ingrown toenails. But it certainly matters for process. Medicines require prescriptions, and podiatrists are not permitted to prescribe these medicines.

Stuff reports that the process for getting an exemption so podiatrists can continue using them may take up to a year.

In the meantime, thousands of people with sore toes will need to see their podiatrist, then go to their GP for a prescription, then go to the pharmacist to have the script filled before going back to the podiatrist with the chemical so the podiatrist can apply it.

You may find the result objectionable. It ties up doctors when GP offices are overloaded. It burdens patients and pharmacists.

But no self-respecting Vogon would allow even its own grandmother to be treated for an ingrown toenail without the proper forms.

At least Medsafe does not make us listen to any of its officials’ poetry.

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