Keeping Tabs on Your Tablets

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are staple items in most medicine stashes. But new research sheds light on some inherent risks of taking these over-the-counter drugs. Before you pop your next gel cap, consider these concerns:

The FDA issued new recommendations for warnings and dose restrictions on acetaminophen (Tylenol) products regarding the increased risk for liver damage. Many combination products include the drug, so patients may inadvertently exceed appropriate amounts. If you suffer from liver problems, talk to your doctor before taking acetaminophen, and always follow the dosage limits. Read the fine print on other medications you’re taking to learn if they contain the drug.

A report in the Annals of Renal Medicine found that osteoarthritis patients are 9 times more likely to suffer a heart attack if they take ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) along with aspirin. Long-term use or high doses can also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. And while the anti-inflammatory is effective in pain management, new research suggests it may hinder the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. So avoid using it to lower fever in standard illnesses. For minor injuries, defer to natural methods, like cold compresses, for reducing inflammation and controlling pain.

In both cases, avoid the “maximum” and “extra-strength” versions, sticking to the lowest potency possible.

Outrageous drug savings

It would be unthinkable to most of us to buy something without checking its price. But that’s exactly what happens when many of us pick up prescription meds. Only 5 percent of patients ask their doctors how much a drug costs, according to a national survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. But you shouldn’t be too shy to ask your doctor about prices – especially if you’re worried about coming up with the cash for your deductible or co-pay, or if you don’t’ have great drug coverage. Your doctor might be able to offer cheaper options, such as those here, that are as effective as super-expensive drugs (percentage savings are based on cash prices).

Prescription heartburn remedy Nexium costs about $248 per month, but over-the-counter Prilosec costs $24 per month. Savings: 90%
The drug Lovaza treats high triglycerides for about $213 a month. You might have seen its ads and wondered whether you should take it instead of your over-the-counter fish oil supplement. But most people don’t need a dose as potent as that in Lovaza. The American Heart Association recommends people with heart disease get 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per day, which you can get in three or four fish oil capsules for around $10 per month. People without heart disease need about 2 grams of omega-3s per week, which you can get by eating fish such as trout and wild salmon twice a week. Savings: 95%
Lucentis injections for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) cost up to $23,400 per month. Avastin is a chemical cousin of Lucentis that costs $595 and is used off-label to treat AMD (off-label means that the drug is used in a treatment not officially approved the Food and Drug Administration). Savings: 97%
The antidepressants Prozac and Sarafem are the same drug with different names. Sarafem, which is approved to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder, costs about $243 per month, but its generic, fluoxetine, costs $4 per month with generic drug programs. Savings: 98%

The Bottom Line
Even if you have insurance with great drug coverage, you should ask about prices and know your options. A cheaper, older drug might have a better track record than a new one. Also, drug costs affect everyone’s pocketbooks because premiums need to keep up with high health care costs. So speak up the next time you get a prescription.

Insert cash, press button for drugs

Vending machines that sell drugs? Yep, they’re here! They’re a great option for those after-hours drugstore runs (currently 34 states have them, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy). Some of the kiosks have pharmacists fill the machines, and then you enter your info and pick up your prescription. Others have a robotic device that fills your prescription after you enter information. They can be especially helpful for medications that are on automatic refill (though not all do that).
And they help you avoid long lines at the pharmacy counter. InstyMeds machines, which dispense drugs via an ATM-style kiosk, are usually placed in urgent care centers and emergency rooms. Some of the drug dispensers have a phone that connects to a pharmacist if you need help; others require you to have a videoconference with a pharmacist, who then gives directions to the robotic device to fill your meds. Coming soon: kiosks in airports and malls.

Article Source: ShopSmartMagazine

Dangerous Drugs: Be careful where you shop

It’s tough to resist a great deal, but our health experts say bargain hunting for prescription drugs online from Canada or other countries could be dangerous. The problem is that most online-only pharmacies aren’t legitimate. A recent review of more than 7,000 of them found that only 3.5 percent appear to be trustworthy, according to research by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, an umbrella group that support state boards of pharmacy.

The NABP found that most of the pharmacies didn’t require a valid prescription and sold medications that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, among other things. The NABP also warns that many online pharmacies advertised as “Canadian” might not be located anywhere near our northern neighbor. The drugs might be manufactured in developing countries where standards are more lax and potentially dangerous counterfeits are prevalent.

Another shocker: A group of European researchers ordered drugs from 116 websites and found that more than 90 percent of the sites didn’t require a prescription. And 62 percent of the drugs they received were counterfeit, substandard, or unapproved generics. Other researchers who received 152 prescriptions handled by online foreign pharmacies found that 20 percent were filled with a different drug from what was on the prescription – with drugs that were considered unidentifiable. three orders for Viagra (sildenafil) were likely counterfeit.

The Bottom Line In most cases, it’s illegal to buy drugs online from foreign countries. But you can shop online for a better deal from a U.S. pharmacy. Some safety tips: Look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal, which means that the site dispenses FDA-approved medications, requires a prescription, has undergone an on-site inspection of all facilities, and has a physical location. For a list of VIPPS pharmacies, go to and click on the VIPPS seal. Also keep in mind that almost every big-box and chain-store pharmacy offers a discount generic-drug program that sells 30-day supplies for as little as $4 and 90-day supplies for $10 or so.

Chomp on this!

The next time you need to focus, get chewing. A small study found that people felt more alert while they were working on a computer task for 20 minutes when they chewed spearmint gum.

New Sunscreen Caution

The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it’s investigating the potential risks of spray sunscreens, so we now advise not to spray them on kids. We don’t recommend Ocean Potion Kids Instant Dry Mist SPF 50 for children. The problem is that kids tend to squirm when they’re sprayed, so they could end up breathing in sunscreen or getting it in their mouth. If you only have spray sunscreen, put some in your hands and wipe it on your child.

Generic drug safety

Q: I’ve always thought that generic and brand-name drugs were identical. But in recent years I’ve had tow doctors and a pharmacist say that there are variations in quality when you are dealing with generic prescriptions, and they do not recommend their use. What’s your take?

A: Generic medications are as pure, potent, and safe as branded drugs. But you’re not alone when it comes to worrying about generic drug safety. Our own surveys in 2009 and 2010 found that more than 40 percent of people had concerns about generics, fearing they weren’t as safe or effective as brand-name medications, had different side effects, or came under different federal standards. However, the Food and Drug Administration regulates generic drugs just as it does brand-name drugs. All generics, by law, must have exactly the same active chemicals as the brand-name drugs they copy and must work in the same way. Generics look different, with different shapes and colors, and may even taste different, but that does not affect how well the drugs work. Generics are up to 80 percent cheaper because many competing companies can make them, instead of just one company. Ask your doctor which is best for you.

Medication For Headaches

Talk to any 50 people you know, and the odds are that 49 of them will have had a headache at some time in their lives. It’s the most common medical complaint in the world. Fortunately, we’re learning a great deal about what to do — and what not to do — when the pain strikes.

Stephen, M.D., Neurologist & Co-Dir. Comprehensive Headache Center:
“But what’s amazing to me is that patients can look at the pictures and say, that’s me. That’s how I feel. That’s the agony I go through.”

That agony can drive people to extremes. Helene got occasional migraines for almost twenty years. To stop the pain, she took Tylenol, and lots of it. Jennine got daily tension headaches. She took aspirin.

Jennine, Chronic Daily Headache Sufferer:
“You know at first you start out taking maybe two a day, and then when that doesn’t work you take them every two hours, and –you know–before you know it you’re up to ten a day.”

Stephen, M.D.:
“And I would suspect about 70–80 percent of the people who have daily headaches overuse medication.”

Those medications can interfere with your body’s pain system, leaving you with a headache that never goes away. And it can get worse.

Stephen, M.D.:
“We’ve seen people with their stomachs cut out from bleeding. We’ve seen people with kidney failure.”

Both women were weaned off their medications and put on a preventive plan including something new in headache treatment –the anti-depressant drug Prozac.

Helene, Migraine Sufferer:
“Not only was I getting headache-free time during the day, but I was getting headache-free days.”

And Dr. Silberstein says none of his patients have had serious side effects.

Headache pain can be debilitating. But with a new arsenal of drugs, medical procedures, biofeedback techniques, and changes in lifestyle, 90 to 95-percent of people with headaches can be helped.

“There’s no reason to think that you’re crazy or that you have to put up with these things because you just don’t.”

“Yes there is treatment, yes there is proper treatment.”

“I feel like a whole new person. It’s really wonderful.”

If you get headaches on a regular basis, keep a diary. Write down things like the time of day they usually start, how long they last, what you ate or drank. It helps your doctor diagnose you properly. And if you have an unusually severe, sudden headache or one that includes weakness, numbness, or loss of vision, get help right away to rule out more serious medical problems.

Wound Healing Made Easier

Each year in this country nearly 70,000 amputations are performed on diabetics. Most are caused by wounds that just won’t heal. However, many are now clearing up thanks to some super cells from a tiny source.

Thomas is standing on his own two feet again and he says it has never felt so good. Thomas was laid up — on and off — for two years with an ankle wound that would not heal.

“Me and my wife were worried I might lose the foot. It looked red all around. It was inflamed. It looked kind of dark inside,” says Thomas.

Nothing like it looks today thanks to a powerful new skin substitute called Graftskin (Apligraf®). It looks like plastic wrap, but it is made of cells from the foreskin of a newborn. It is packed with powerful growth material that stimulates healing.

“All the good stuff in fetal tissue which is basically as good as it gets be cause of the baby being so new to the world and having all the growth factors for growth,” says A podiatric surgeon.

It takes just 10 minutes in an exam room to treat 2 wounds on diabetic David’s feet. In a month, he will not even see the Graftskin. His own skin will replace it.

Unlike a skin graft where the skin graft will heal over the ulcer, in this case this will disintegrate into the wound and begin to release the growth factors and immune factors necessary for healing.

With Graftskin, most wounds close completely in about two months — without the “patchy” look of a skin graft. Because the material is sterile, there is little chance of infection.

Thomas says, “It’s clean and closed. No problems.”

Apligraf put Thomas back on his feet again.

Studies show 92 percent of wounds remained closed with Graftskin six months after therapy. Graftskin (Apligraf®) is FDA approved for venous leg ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers.