People's Pharmacy


December 23, 2005

You recently had a question from someone who didn't take any prescription drugs. He wanted to know if he should sign up for Medicare Plan D. Your advice was abysmal.

You discouraged him by writing, "paying a monthly premium for years could add up." This applies to any insurance. I am advising my pharmacy customers to treat Medicare D like insurance and sign up now rather than later.

Those who take prescriptions should choose a plan that covers more of their drugs rather than the cheapest one.

We goofed. Many readers pointed out that it is important for seniors to sign up by May 15, 2006, to avoid a monthly penalty. Premiums will increase by 1 percent a month for every month a person delays after the deadline.

People who are not currently taking expensive medicines may want to sign up for the least-expensive plan they can find. If circumstances change and they need pricey prescriptions later, they can opt for a more appropriate plan then.

With my high blood pressure, it's hard to find cold or cough medicine that is safe. My sister recommended black elderberry extract and zinc. It did the trick.

Elderberry-flower tea is a traditional remedy for colds and coughs. Many herbalists believe elderberry is more effective than echinacea.

Studies of zinc against colds have produced mixed results, some positive but others negative. Neither remedy should increase blood pressure, though.

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 via their Web site:

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