Save big on the drugs you need

 Got prescriptions to fill? Experts will tell you every trick to cut your costs.

Coming up with the cash to cover prescription drugs and medical bills is the No. 1 money worry of Americans, beating out thinks like missed payments on big bills and even job loss, according to the Consumer Reports Index, a monthly national telephone poll of American adults.

To help you find more affordable prescription drugs, SopSmartMag teamed up with the medical experts at Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, who evaluate them for safety, effectiveness, and cost. They rely on the analysis of hundreds of studies so that patients and their doctors can find the medication that works best and costs less based on independent and unbiased scientific evidence. Here’s the result of their work: six great ways to save:

  • Go generic. They’re often good first choices, though the names of these less-expensive drugs are often unpronounceable (they’re a shortened version of the active ingredient’s chemical name). you can save as much as 95 percent off the brand-name price tag. Generics are required to have the same active ingredients and action as the brand names, and the Food and Drug Administration regulates them Justas it does brand-name drugs.
  • Order online. Last year experts shopped for four expensive brand-name drugs and found the best prices online, at Healthwarehouse.com, Familymeds.com, Costco.com, and Drugstore.com. Walmart (the store) was next, followed by independent drugstores. But watch out: Most online pharmacies aren’t legit. So stick with the sits experts recommend or retailer websites that have walk-in stores. And order only from within the U.S.; you can’t be sure of what you’re getting from other countries.
  • Consider Mail Order. These services can save you money, too. Check with your human-resources department about availability.
  • Sign up for money-saving store programs. Most big drugstore chains and mass retailers offer discount programs that sell hundreds of generic meds for $4 a month or less.
  • Ask Mom-And-Pop Stores for a price cut. Like the big chains, independent drugstores may have their own discount programs or match a chain’s prices.
  • Buy a pill splitter.

Split it Up!

Cutting meds in half can be like buying two doses for the price of one. Here’s how to do it right.

  • Do get the OK from your doctor or pharmacist first. Not all drugs are safe for splitting.
  • Don’t split time-released or long-lasting pills, combo drugs, pills that require critical daily blood levels (such as birth-control pills and blood thinners, capsules, or coated pills.
  • Do use a pill splitter. You can find one for $3 to $10. Some insurance plans even given them away.
  • Don’t split pills in advance because it increases exposure to heat, moisture, and air. Cut one at a time and take the two halves one after the other so that any deviation in the size of one is compensated for with the next dose.

Drugs you can cut

Escitalopram (Lexapro) – for depression
Split 20-milligram pills
Save $59 / month

Irbesartan (Avapro) – for high blood pressure
Split 300-milligram pills
Save $40/month

Rosuvastatin (Crestor) – for high cholesterol
Split 20-milligram pills
Save $74/month

Emergency Contraception: Now Available for Everyone – Did you know it always was?

The l960s brought us birth control pills, giving millions of women the power to decide if and when they wished to become pregnant. Over the years, it was discovered these same combination pills of estrogen and progestin could be used as emergency contraception protection (ECP) when given in high doses. This technology has been available for over 20 years, but only about one percent of American women have ever used it. In l997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally gave its endorsement to this now common application of oral contraceptives and even specified six brands of birth control pills as safe and effective for this purpose. On September 1, l998, the FDA approved PREVEN™ by Gynetic, the first product packaged and marketed solely as an emergency contraception method. You simply ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to prescribe it. Then you keep it in your medicine chest in case of…. well, just in case.

Half of the 5.4 million pregnancies occurring annually in the U.S. are unintended. In May of l997, the CDC estimated that half of these unintended pregnancies are due to contraceptive failure. Some experts estimate that generalized use of ECP could lower that rate by 50 percent and prevent more than 800,000 abortions per year. Sharon Camp, Ph.D., president of Women’s Capital Corporation and former coordinator of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, believes it is time for the U.S. to catch up to the nearly 40 countries (including Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Finland and New Zealand) that already sell prepackaged contraceptive pills for emergency use. “We believe American women need more contraceptive options,” says Dr. Camp. “Emergency contraceptives are uniquely important for women’s health because they are the only method women can use after sex to prevent pregnancy.”

A national survey of American women by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that:

Only 33 percent of women have ever heard of emergency contraceptive pills.
96 percent have never discussed ECP with their health care professional.
50 percent said they would like to use ECP.

While it may not shock many that the highest rate of unintended pregnancies occurs in the 15-19 age group (78 percent), it might surprise you to learn the next highest group is the 40 to 44-year-olds (51 percent). By income, the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies occurs in the population making more than $34,000 yearly (43 percent).

The pills are taken according to the Yuzpe regimen, named after the Canadian physician who developed it in the l970s, which is well-documented in clinical research to reduce the number of pregnancies from approximately 8:100 to less than 2:100. Until now, you had to purchase a month’s worth of pills, the only way they are packaged, and remember your doctor’s instructions on how many and when to take them. After taking the pills you needed from the pack, you would throw the rest away. PREVEN™ eliminates that waste and offers women a complete package to safely prevent pregnancy. The kit consists of :

A pregnancy test (to make sure she isn’t pregnant from earlier in the month or a previous month),
Two doses (of two pills each) of contraceptive pills,
A detailed patient information/instruction book.

You will soon see ads for this product in Entertainment Weekly, People, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and hear them on the radio. Health professionals can read the information in medical journals such as Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Though we have nicknamed this treatment “the morning after pill,” in reality, the first dose of ECP needs to be taken within 72 hours of having sex. The second dose follows 12 hours later. Reported side effects are nausea (16-50 percent), vomiting (less than 30 percent), cramping, breast tenderness, headache and fluid retention. One study reported no side effects in 75 percent of the participants. For women who suffer from nausea and vomiting or who cannot take estrogen for some reason, there is more promising news. The Women’s Capital Corporation has announced that it plans to submit a new drug application to the FDA within the next few months for a progestin-only ECP. Until then, progestin only birth control pills (so-called “mini-pills”) can be substituted, but you have to take 20 pills for each dose.

Emergency contraceptive pills are not abortive agents like RU-486 (the so-called abortion pill), which disrupts an established, i.e. implanted, pregnancy. The pills work on the same premise as normal birth control pills. They inhibit ovulation and prevent the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, from becoming hospitable to implantation. The difference, and cause of some controversy, is in the timing. If you are taking the oral contraceptives daily from the start of your cycle, you won’t ovulate. However, if you’re taking the pills on an emergency basis, you might not know you had already ovulated, in which case preventing a potentially fertilized ovum from implantation in the endometrium could be the method of birth control. Some religious groups are not willing to risk this possibility and will not approve of this method. ECP, like oral contraceptives taken daily during the month, have not been shown to interrupt an established pregnancy, nor will they protect you from pregnancy resulting from any future sexual activity during the rest of that cycle.

Emergency contraceptive pills are hard on a woman’s body, and few health care providers would prescribe them routinely. “You cannot do this all the time. It’s for emergency use only,” says Teresa Zephro, RN, an educator with Planned Parenthood. ” Women can’t always wait for doctor’s appointments. This gives them help right at their fingertips, at their own disposal.” It should also be noted that ECP provides no protection for any sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV transmission.

What’s in the future? Current projects include a clinical study for a progestin-only patch; a program in Washington state training pharmacists to distribute ECP under a physician’s protocol; a study to examine alternatives in the Yuzpe regimen, such as a change in dose or timing; and a study of anti-emitics to prevent nausea associated with the Yuzpe Regimen. The recent proliferation of new products in the field of emergency contraception means that methods available for a woman to prevent pregnancy are increasing in number, and the window of opportunity for when she acts is widening. Whether you have been a victim of sexual assault or a broken condom, this technology is available to you right now.

Ivanhoe asked Orlando doctor Sherry Brooks, M.D., to comment on ECP:

“I’ve been aware of and have used this method of contraception in my practice for past 15 years. It is not used for routine birth control because the side effects are real and uncomfortable. Most of my patients did experience nausea and some vomiting, but in a special situation for emergency use it’s a helpful addition to a woman’s options.”

Emergency Contraception World Wide Web Server operated by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University
Provides comprehensive information, instructions, methods of ECP including IUDs, links to other sites, clinics, news and research materials.

PREVEN™ (Gynetic)
Information on the company and the product. They also provide a hotline for anyone needing information or having questions. 1-888-PREVEN2 (1-888-773-8362)

Planned Parenthood
This site contains information on ECP, IUD, as well as hormone pills, instructions, side effects, costs, products, how and where to get treatment, and links to other sites. They have a hotline, which will give you the five nearest sites where you can get ECP. Call 1-888-NOT-2-LATE.

Source: Ivanhoe 1999

Minimize Your Cellulite

At least 80 percent of us have visible patches of cellulite, usually on our backside and thighs, but also on our breasts, belly and upper arms. For most women, it’s just an inevitable fact of life why is the puckering so persistent? Cellulite is caused by the way fat naturally bulges out from the connective tissue (called septa) that binds muscle to the skin and holds our fat in place. Think of a down comforter puffing out between its quilted seams. Over time, this dimpling can deepen due to hormonal shifts linked to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and taking birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy drugs. Cellulite can also grow more apparent due to age (which thins skin and makes it less elastic). We can’t eradicate cellulite because we can’t change the way our bodies are made.

Maintain steady weight Yo-yo dieting can compromise your skin’s elasticity and make your fat cells grow larger, making them bulge through your connective tissue even more. To fend off cellulite, try to stay in the same ten-pound weight range.

Work out Getting the 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, daily exercise that experts recommend will help you shed excess fat and improve circulation – both of which can minimize cellulite’s appearance. Weight lifting may be the best available treatment for cellulite. It tones muscle. Doctor’s prescription: 30 to 40 minutes of strength training at least twice a week.

Those are the two soundest strategies to minimize cellulite. But the U.S. market for reduction strategies is more than $47 million. Here’s the lowdown on some of those methods.

Cellulite creams Lotions containing antioxidants, vitamins, herbal extracts, and/or Retin A, promise to improve blood flow and even reduce the size of stubborn fat cells, though there is limited scientific proof to back these claims. Most work by irritating the skin which can cause swelling that camouflages cellulite. But it can also cause rashes and trigger allergic reactions in some users.

Mesotherapy A therapist uses a fine-gauge needle to inject the skin with substances that supposedly melt cellulite so the body’s lymph system can drain it away. Studies on mesotherapy are limited, and it may cause infection, rashes, and uneven skin contours.

Massage “Mechanical massages” involve some combination of infrared light, radio frequency, and/or a device that kneads or rolls the cellulite. Some massage treatments can result in improvement.

The causes of ovarian cancer

Unlike the cervix or breast, which are accessible, the ovaries reside deep within the body. This makes it very difficult to get to the ovaries and learn a great deal about the early events that occur in the development of ovarian cancer.

We’ve known for some time that the factors that prevent ovulation, such as pregnancy, breast feeding and the use of birth control pills, decrease the risk of ovarian cancer. We’ve never really understood before why that’s the case, however. Study found that among women with ovarian cancer, those who had a high number of ovulatory cycles in their lifetime were much more likely to have mutations in the p53 gene relative to women with low numbers of ovulatory cycles. This study begins to clarify why ovulation over a lifetime can predispose women to ovarian cancer. In the meantime, it’s important to emphasize to the general public that we have known for some time that there are several things a woman can do to protect herself against ovarian cancer. For example, women who have three children have about half the risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who have never had children. Similarly, women who have used birth control pills for five to ten years also have about half the risk of ovarian cancer. The protective effect of pregnancy and the pill against ovarian cancer have generally been under-appreciated by most women.

Birth control pills have been available now for about 40 years. Initially when these medications were introduced, there was a great deal of concern about some of the side effects that went along them. Specifically women who are older and particularly those who smoked had serious side effects, such as strokes and heart attacks. Because of that, the pill got a bad name early on. Fortunately, birth control pills that are now available are much safer than those initial pills. Women who have regular periods and never get pregnant or use the birth control pill are at the highest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Using birth control pills for this group of women is not only a very effective contraceptive, but it does protect against ovarian cancer and the development of endometrial cancer as well (but this protection is not 100 percent).

About five percent of ovarian cancers may have a hereditary basis. So women who have a strong family history of ovarian cancer should be concerned. Most ovarian cancers, probably more than 90 percent, are not hereditary, however. The highest risk group in the general population would be women who have never had children or used birth control pills. All of the contraceptive methods have different advantages and disadvantages. It’s best if each individual woman discusses their situation with their own private physician. That physician as a professional can then weigh the pros and cons of different methods for each woman and come up with the best contraceptive method for her. For many women in the United States, birth control pills are an excellent choice. On the other hand, there may still be some women who are older or who smoke or have other reasons why they wouldn’t want to take birth control pills. For those women, methods such as the intrauterine device or IUD, foam and condoms might be better choices for them.

Birth Control Pills and Nutrition

Hormones are very much involved in pregnancy, from conception through labor. Birth control pills, or oral contraceptives, can prevent pregnancy by adjusting certain hormone levels. They are among the most popular and effective means of birth control. There are many different kinds to choose from, and your doctor can recommend which one is right for you.

However, these pills can also deplete your body of other nutrients, including zinc and vitamins B12, B6 and B9, and elevate levels of nutrients such as copper. The following list of nutrients can be extremely helpful for anyone taking birth control.

• Alpha-lipoic acid
• B-complex vitamins
• Carnitine
• Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
• Inositol
• Magnesium
• Phosphatidylcholine (Lecithin)
• Zinc