People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy

October 20, 2006|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

After a gastric bypass, I started craving mint in everything: mint coffee, ice cream, cake, cookies, even mint lip balm. I am worried, because all I want to do is sit down with a tube of mint ChapStick and eat.

I told a doctor, but he laughed it off and said mint would not hurt me. Why am I craving mint? I just found out I do have a very low iron level. Could this be the problem?

Your very low iron level could indeed be contributing to your craving. Iron or zinc deficiency is sometimes associated with a condition called pica. This is the medical term for craving and eating nonfood substances. While mint coffee or cookies qualify as food, mint-flavored lip balm certainly does not! When you correct the iron deficiency, your craving may disappear.

I recently had a prescription filled at my local pharmacy. The dosage was mislabeled big-time. The label read "take four times a day," but it was supposed to be four times a week. I caught the error before I left the drugstore. It was lucky that I did.

Other than reporting the pharmacy to my physician, the state Board of Pharmacy and the drugstore chain, is there anything else to be done?

Pharmacists are often overworked, putting in 12-hour shifts with little time to go to the bathroom or eat lunch. When they have to fill hundreds of prescriptions a day, mistakes happen. One study published in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (March/April 2003) found about four errors per day in an average pharmacy filling 250 prescriptions. That translates to more than 50 million errors a year across the country. Everyone should follow your example and check each prescription carefully to verify drug, dose and instructions.

What can you tell me about buying medicine from Canada? I added up our costs for the year and found that my wife and I are paying more than $5,000 between us for drugs to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol, reflux and osteoporosis.

Brand-name prescriptions often cost significantly less from a Canadian drugstore. Make sure you deal with a legitimate Canadian pharmacy, one that has a physical address in Canada and a provincial license that can be verified.

Customs officials have been confiscating some drug shipments from Canada. A new law permits Americans to bring a 90-day supply across the border. Mail-order shipments may still be confiscated, though U.S. customs officials say they will start relaxing their enforcement.

I've been dieting and exercising more than ever for the past year. This helped drop my cholesterol from 265 to 221 in nine months. After starting to take glucosamine and chondroitin for sore joints, my cholesterol jumped back up to 244. I think there's a connection. Do you know of one?

Although there is no research linking these supplements with elevated cholesterol, we have heard from dozens of readers that their cholesterol rose when they took glucosamine and chondroitin. You might need a different way to relieve your aching joints. You may wish to try turmeric, grape juice with pectin (Certo), fish oil or pomegranate juice.

I had facial acne and rosacea for years. One of your columns several weeks ago mentioned artificial sweeteners causing diarrhea, so I stopped using them for that reason. Once I quit drinking diet soda, my skin problems improved. Now, after six weeks, they are almost gone for the first time in four years.

Acne rosacea is a skin condition leading to redness and sometimes blemishes. Its cause is unknown, but dermatologists recognize that individuals have different triggers that might aggravate the condition. We're glad to have helped you find yours.

Rosacea is often treated with topical medicines such as metronidazole (MetroGel) or azelaic acid (Azelex). Some studies suggest that a topical B vitamin, nicotinamide (Nicomide), might also be helpful in controlling redness and bumps.

A new antibiotic formulation of low-dose doxycycline has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for rosacea. Oracea is designed to maximize anti-inflammatory activity with minimal antibiotic action.

I'd like to try coconut macaroons for controlling diarrhea, but I am trying to cut out sugar. Can shredded coconut be used by itself instead of eating the cookies?

Readers tell us that eating two coconut macaroons daily can ease chronic diarrhea. Some report that plain coconut also does the trick.

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:

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