Lower drug bills through careful shopping

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

March 14, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

My wife and I will turn 65 in a few months. We've had an excellent insurance program that has paid for our prescriptions in the past, but will lose it. I am shocked to find that we will go from $16 per month to over $300 for our four prescriptions.

We're taking Tiazac, Niaspan, Pravachol and Evista. Do you have any suggestion on where we can obtain these drugs for less expense, such as from Canada or Mexico or through the Internet?

You are not alone. Millions of other Americans without drug benefits also face high drug bills. We did some checking and found that you could save about $100 a month if you shop comparatively. That will entail getting some of your medicines from mail-order or online pharmacies and some from Canada.

The Food and Drug Administration has made it clear that it is illegal for U.S. citizens to purchase drugs abroad, but agency officials say they won't prosecute individual consumers at this time. Please discuss your dilemma with your doctors. There might be other, less expensive medications that could achieve the desired goals.

I read a question from one of your readers who complained that 90 percent of the vitamin pills he gets are so large he can't swallow them. He wondered if there is a company that makes smaller pills.

Maybe you should explain how to swallow pills. Almost everyone swallows chunks of food bigger than any pill with no problem. Then they worry when they take a pill.

I think people tilt their head back at a sharp angle, closing off the throat. This is a mistake. Instead, put the pill in your mouth and take a sip. Bring your chin down to open the throat, then swallow.

Thank you for the good advice on making pill-swallowing easier. Another approach we have learned from readers calls for a pop bottle or a narrow-necked glass bottle filled with carbonated water (the bubbles seem to make the pill go down more easily).

Pop the pill into your mouth and then drink straight from the bottle. The sucking motion helps bypass the gag reflex and sends the medicine on its way. For most pills, water rather than soda is preferred.

My husband takes atenolol, Norvasc and furosemide for high blood pressure. He has no energy, partly because his potassium levels are low. The doctor told him to eat foods high in potassium, but only mentioned bananas and orange juice.

Orange juice gives him heartburn, and there are limits to how many bananas he can eat in a day. We badly need a list of other foods that are high in potassium. We understand potassium is critical for his heart.

It is essential for your husband to be monitored on a regular basis. Low potassium levels can cause irregular heart rhythms (or cardiac arrest) as well as sap his energy. Some foods to consider include almonds, avocados, blackstrap molasses, Brazil nuts, dried figs, flounder, peanuts and wheat germ. A salt substitute can also provide potassium.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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