Q. As a pharmacist, I feel so 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 far too much for most consumers.
We always hear that research is the reason medicines cost so much. But how do drug companies explain the high cost of really old drugs like Thalomid, which costs thousands for a month’s supply?

What a mess this is for all of us. The government is always talking about lower costs for seniors but it nit-picks the reimbursement to pharmacies. This makes it appear that the pharmacies are gouging our customers instead of the drug companies. What can we do?
A. The cost of prescriptions keeps outpacing inflation. Anyone without insurance is in terrible trouble if he needs expensive medicine. At last count, nearly 50 million Americans were without such 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 may not survive this transition. There are no easy solutions to the prescription price problem.
Q. My father has been on atenolol for the past year and has had terrible difficulties with respiration (in addition to low-grade depression and lack of energy). Is there an alternative class of drugs that might lower blood pressure without these problems?
Dad used to be a very active, energetic man. He feels virtually immobilized by this drug and is very anxious to seek out better options.
A. There are growing concerns about the value of beta blockers like atenolol (Tenormin) as first-line treatments for hypertension. A review of the medical literature (The Lancet, Nov. 6, 2004) “cast doubts on atenolol as a suitable drug for hypertensive patients.��? Your father’s symptoms could well be related to this medicine.
No one should stop atenolol (or any beta blocker) suddenly, as that could trigger chest pain or a heart attack. Your father may want to ask his physician about other approaches to blood pressure control such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors or a class of drugs called ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).
We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment with more information on such medications and some non-drug ways to help control hypertension. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ The People’s Pharmacy®, No. B-67, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. I have seen ads on TV for an allergy drug called Astelin. What can you tell me bout it? I am really suffering this spring.
A. 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 may be about as effective as oral antihistamines like Claritin (loratadine). Side effects can include a bitter taste in the mouth, burning sensation in the nose, sore throat, headache, dry mouth or drowsiness.
Q. I’ve been using Elon Nail Conditioner nightly for about three years. Since I started I haven’t had a cracked or split nail. Thanks for writing about it.
A. This nail moisturizer keeps nails from drying out. We’re glad it worked. Some people also find almond oil works for this purpose.

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