Q. I had a severe asthma attack that reduced my ability to breathe. The doctor prescribed Advair, and the script was sent to my regular online pharmacy. They called me to ask permission to bill me $857 for the three-month supply. I declined. I began researching alternate ways of getting this inhaler and ended up using a Canadian pharmacy. The three-month supply cost me $134.
A. Americans pay more for brand-name prescription medicines than anyone else in the world. Many countries, like Canada, negotiate drug prices with the manufacturers. The result can be a dramatic price discrepancy, as you discovered.
We must point out that it is illegal for patients to import drugs that are already available in the U.S. That said, the Food and Drug Administration and customs officials are uneven in their enforcement of this law. That is why many others also have found that they can save money by shopping online from legitimate Canadian pharmacies.
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Q. I am a 72-year-old woman. About nine months ago, I suddenly came down with a bad case of acid reflux. My doctor prescribed Prilosec, which had awful side effects and did not help much. With the help of your booklet on digestive disorders, I tapered off the medicine, modified my diet drastically and drank a lot of ginger tea. I finally consulted a gastroenterologist, who prescribed Cytotec. I took it for four weeks. It worked without too many side effects, and I am keeping my fingers crossed. Apparently, it can cause miscarriage, but that is not a problem for me. How does it work? What can you tell me about it?
A. Misoprostol (Cytotec) protects the stomach from damage caused by aspirin and other pain meds like diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen. These NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) block a natural compound called prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), which protects the stomach lining. Misoprostol supplies synthetic PGE1 to the digestive tract and helps ulcers heal.
Q. I disagree with your response to the person whose doctor said he could tell just by looking at the patient that his cholesterol and blood-sugar levels were OK. I would immediately change doctors! In my opinion, this is the stupidest answer any health-care professional could come up with. My husband looks healthy, but he had sky-high cholesterol, even though he was at the correct weight. No one can determine these numbers just by looking. If the doctor is not doing his job well, find someone who will do a better job.
A. We, too, were flabbergasted that a doctor would say he could tell at a glance that a patient did not need any blood tests for diabetes or cholesterol. Even someone who is fit and slender could have high blood sugar or high cholesterol.
Home kits are available so that people can test themselves for these markers. You need to have a trusting relationship with your health-care provider to be able to work in partnership to achieve good health.