People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

May 12, 2006|By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON

As a pharmacist, I feel discouraged about the unreasonable prices of prescription medicines. I used to get excited about new drugs, but now I only feel disgust. I know that the cost will be too much for most consumers.

We always hear that research is why medicines cost so much. But how do drug companies explain the cost of older drugs such as Thalomid, which costs thousands of dollars for a month's supply?

What a mess this is. The government is always talking about lower costs for seniors, but it nitpicks the reimbursement to pharmacies. This makes it appear that the pharmacies - instead of the drug companies - are gouging customers. What can we do?

The cost of prescriptions keeps outpacing inflation. Anyone without insurance is in trouble if he or she needs expensive medicine. At last count, nearly 50 million Americans were without coverage.

Many pharmacists have been hit hard by the new Medicare Part D plan because of cuts in reimbursements and delayed payments. Some independent drugstores might not survive this transition. There are no easy solutions to the prescription-price problem.

I have seen ads on TV for an allergy drug called Astelin. What can you tell me about it? I am really suffering this spring.

Astelin (azelastine) is a prescription antihistamine nasal spray. It is fast-acting but requires two spritzes to the nostrils twice daily. Studies suggest that it might be as effective as oral antihistamines such as Claritin (loratadine). Side effects can include a bitter taste in the mouth, burning sensation in the nose, sore throat, headache, dry mouth and drowsiness.

Here's a hiccup remedy: Take a few drops of lemon or lime juice. A friend told me about this, and it works.

Another reader offered this: "Hold a pencil in your mouth like a horse's bit. With the pencil still in your mouth, take a couple of gulps of water and try to swallow. I have tried this many times and it works!"

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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