A taste of how drug reps work

September 20, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I sat in the waiting room at a local doctors' office for hours while a relative was having tests. A number of pharmaceutical reps waltzed in all day pushing dollies of samples. They waved to the front desk as they went back to restock the samples.

I also noticed a lot of food being delivered while I was there. The nurse said that pharmaceutical reps keep the staff well-fed with cookies, pizza, barbecue, chicken and the like. It seems to me there is something wrong with this picture.

The pharmaceutical industry spends an extraordinary amount of money promoting medications to physicians. One way to get in good with the office staff is to provide lunch. We hear that in some doctors' offices, the staff expects lunch to be provided for everyone and complains if the food doesn't meet certain standards. These "Lunch and Learn" sessions are one way sales reps get face time with busy doctors, but the free lunches will ultimately be paid for at the pharmacy when patients pick up their prescriptions.

I experience overwhelming anxiety and have problems flying and riding in elevators. My doctor prescribes an anti-anxiety drug when I occasionally fly. Is there an alternative to taking prescription drugs to get relief from the anxiety?

You might want to consult a therapist who uses cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat fear of flying. This approach can be very effective.

Anti-anxiety medicine can be helpful. However, if you take it on a regular basis to help you ride the elevator to your office, beware of stopping the medicine suddenly. Some people report withdrawal difficulties from medicines like Ativan (lorazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam).

How much ibuprofen can a person take and for how long? I have read that stomach upset might indicate problems. I was taking 1,600 to 2,400 milligrams a day of ibuprofen for weeks before surgery, and I expect to need some medicine to help with pain relief throughout my physical therapy.

As long as I eat with each dose, my stomach feels OK, but I am also concerned about what the medicine could be doing to my insides. Any information you can provide on other approaches to pain relief would be greatly appreciated.

Ibuprofen, like all NSAIDs, can be irritating to the digestive tract. Stomach ulcers are always a risk. Other complications include high blood pressure, kidney damage, fluid retention, heart failure and toxic skin rash. The high doses you are using require medical supervision.

Topical NSAIDs might be a safer alternative. Canadian pharmacies sell Pennsaid (diclofenac and DMSO) if you have a prescription. You may also find fish oil or herbs like boswellia, ginger or turmeric beneficial.

I am a recovering alcoholic and do not want to do anything to jeopardize my sobriety (since 2001). I am interested in trying gin-soaked raisins as an arthritis remedy. Is there any way you can find out the alcoholic content of the raisins after they're soaked for a week? I know the alcohol evaporates, but is there any left in the raisins?

Gin-soaked raisins are a popular remedy for arthritis, but we recommend you look for another approach. We had the alcohol content of the raisins analyzed, and it is low -- about one drop in nine raisins.

Preparing them, however, might pose too great a temptation, especially if there were gin left over. Sticking to just nine a day might also be a challenge. Plant pectin (Certo) dissolved in grape juice might be a safer bet for you. Anyone who would like to read more about such home remedies for arthritis will find them at peoplespharmacy.com.

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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