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have your healthcare and afford it, too

Archive for November, 2010

Consumer alert regarding MERIDIA

November 19, 2010 By: PharmaSueAnn Category: Medtipster

MERIDIA, has been removed from the market because the cardiovascular risk outweighed it benefits.   Dispose of any remaining medication by mixing the contents of the capsules in coffee grinds.

Unexpected Abuse of OTC Medications

November 18, 2010 By: PharmaSueAnn Category: Medtipster

“Skittles” not to be mistaken for the sweet, fruit flavored candy, is one of the street names for dextromethorphan also known as “poor man’s PCP” .  Dextromethorphan can be found in many cough and cold medications and are being taken in higher than recommended doses.   High doses of cold products can be fatal.

“OTC Methadone”  people are taking high doses of Loperamide, an OTC drug used to treat diarrhea, is being used for opiate withdrawal.  This has the potential to cause CNS depression and intestinal blockage

Steep Co-Pays May Cause Some to Abandon Prescriptions

November 17, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News Source: HealthDay, 11.15.2010 – By Serena Gordon

In these tough economic times, even people with health insurance are leaving prescription medications at the pharmacy because of high co-payments.

This costs the pharmacy between $5 and $10 in processing per prescription, and across the United States that adds up to about $500 million in additional health care costs annually, according to Dr. William Shrank, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of a new study.

“A little over 3 percent of prescriptions that are delivered to the pharmacy aren’t getting picked up,” said Shrank. “And, in more than half of those cases, the prescription wasn’t refilled anywhere else during the next six months.”

Results of the study are published in the Nov. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Shrank and his colleagues reviewed data on the prescriptions bottled for insured patients of CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager and national retail pharmacy chain. CVS Caremark funded the study.

The study period ran from July 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2008. More than 10.3 million prescriptions were filled for 5.2 million patients. The patients’ average age was 47 years, and 60 percent were female, according to the study. The average family income in their neighborhoods was $61,762.

Of the more than 10 million prescriptions, 3.27 percent were abandoned.

Cost appeared to be the biggest driver in whether or not someone would leave a prescription, according to the study.

If a co-pay was $50 or over, people were 4.5 times more likely to abandon the prescription, Shrank said, adding that it’s “imperative to talk to your doctor and pharmacist to try to identify less expensive options, rather than abandoning an expensive medication and going without.”

Drugs with a co-pay of less than $10 were abandoned just 1.4 percent of the time, according to the study. People were also a lot less likely to leave generic medications at the pharmacy counter, according to Shrank.

The medications most frequently abandoned were cough, cold, allergy, asthma and skin medications, those used on an as-needed basis. Insulin prescriptions were abandoned 2.2 percent of the time, but Douglas Warda, director of pharmacy for ambulatory services at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said this might be a cost issue, but it could also be that some people are afraid to inject insulin.

The study also found that antipsychotic medications were abandoned 2.3 percent of the time.

Drugs least likely to be abandoned included opiate medications for pain, blood pressure medications, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, and blood-thinning medications, according to the study.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 were the most likely to forgo their prescriptions, and new users of medications were 2.74 times more likely to leave their drugs behind.

Prescription orders that were delivered to the pharmacy electronically — via the computer — were 64 percent more likely to be abandoned than prescriptions walked into the pharmacy.

“We’re definitely not saying that e-prescribing is bad; it’s great, but there appear to be some unintended consequences,” said Shrank.

There was no way to tell if people never tried to pick up their prescriptions, or if they went to retrieve them but chose to leave them behind because of the cost.

Warda said he believes that more patients might pick up their medications if the instructions from their physicians were clearer. For example, prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors were left at the pharmacy 2.6 percent of the time. These medications reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and can help prevent heartburn or more serious problems. “If the physician message is, ‘You need to take these medications for two to three months and it will reduce your pain and help your body heal,’ fewer people might abandon these medications,” he said.

Plus, if cost is an issue for you, bring it up with your doctor ahead of time, he added. “Don’t get blindsided at the pharmacy. Always ask your physician if there’s a generic option, or if there’s something cheaper that might work just as well. Sometimes people are embarrassed to say anything, but it’s better to ask and get a medication you can afford.

“If you get to the pharmacy, and you can’t afford the medication, follow up with your doctor or ask the pharmacist if there’s a cheaper alternative,” suggested Warda.

Vitamins? Zinc? Soup? Everyone has a ‘cure’

November 02, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings Source: The Columbus Dispatch – October 31, 2010 – By Suzanne Hoholik

Ask 10 friends for tips on how to treat a cold or flu and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.

Some say Airborne works. Others choose Sudafed, Cold-EEZE or Mucinex. Then there are those who swear by vitamin C, echinacea or zinc.

And then, almost as an afterthought, people will remind you to drink lots of orange juice and eat hot soup.

“Unfortunately, you’re just going to be looking at controlling some of the symptoms,” said Jarrett Bauder, a pharmacist at UpTown Pharmacy in Westerville.

“You’re not going to be doing anything to speed up the healing process, just making yourself comfortable getting through that.”

Americans spent about $3.6 billion on over-the-counter medicines to fight colds, coughs and sore throats last year, said Mintel International, a market-research firm. On top of that, people pay millions more for prescription drugs to help them get through cold and flu season.

Dr. Diana Donati, a North Side primary-care physician, said colds spend “four days coming, four days here and four days going.”

She said it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking four to eight glasses of fluids — not caffeine — a day. This will thin nasal secretions, making it easier to get rid of them, she said.

“When I’m sick, I push the green tea; that works for me,” Donati said. “You just have to find what works for you.”

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious-disease specialist at Riverside Methodist Hospital, said many over-the-counter cold remedies have a placebo effect.

“I could sell you a piece of candy and tell you this candy can improve your immune system and there are people who take these and feel better,” he said. “The best advice I can give people is, unless you have a compromised immune system, your own body will fight the virus and take care of it on its own.”

Gastaldo said the things that your parents preached — staying home, drinking fluids and resting — are still the best medicine.

People who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, have prostate symptoms, or take Ritalin or antidepressants should talk to their doctor before taking any cold medicines.

The flu is different and requires different treatment.

If you have the flu, your symptoms will be a fever of 103 to 104 degrees, a dry cough and “horrible joint pain,” Donati said.

She said prescription Tamiflu could shorten the time that you’re sick. She recommends lots of fluids and Tylenol or Advil every two hours to relieve the joint pain.

Relenza is another prescription medication that helps with flu symptoms, but it can cost $60 to $70 a course, Bauder said.

“If taken within that first 48 hours … they’re reporting a decrease of one to two days of the flu,” he said. “That could make a huge impact on you if you need those days or if you have a weak immune system.”

John Henry Hughes, an Ohio State University virologist, said prevention is the best course.

“We tend to pick up the viruses that cause cold and flu in our hands from the telephone, elevator button; and then we transfer them to our face,” Hughes said.

He preaches soap and water instead of hand sanitizer.

“These sanitizers work, (but) they’re not going to be 100 percent,” Hughes said. “Once in a while, you’ve got to wash your hands. You’re just moving crud and dirt on your hands, and eventually it will trap things.”

He hasn’t had a flu shot in 30 years and would prefer getting the flu so his immune system can build up a defense to it.

The one product Hughes likes is Kleenex Anti-Viral tissues. There are dots of detergent and citric acid on each tissue, he said. When you cough or sneeze into it, it kills cold and flu viruses so they can’t be spread as easily, he said.

Hughes said most people can handle a cold or the flu without spending money on remedies.

“The way I look at it, the symptoms we get with common colds and flu are not that bad compared to what we could get medically, like cancer,” he said.

“If you’re healthy, your body can handle it.”

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