Q. I had a gastric bypass 32 months ago. Last year I started craving mint in everything: mint coffee, ice cream, cake, cookies, even mint lip balm.
It has now gotten worse. I am worried because all I want to do is sit down with a tube of mint Chapstick and eat my heart out. I have asked other bypass people if they crave non-food items. Some have said they eat lip balm for the waxiness.
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?
A. 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 non-food 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.
Q. I recently had a prescription filled at my local pharmacy. The dosage was mislabeled big time. The label read “take 4 times a day,��? but it was supposed to be 4 times a week.
I caught the error myself before I even 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 itself, is there anything else to be done?
In relating this incident to co-workers, friends and family, I’ve heard many similar horror stories regarding botched prescriptions. How do pharmacies get away with this kind of thing and stay in business?
A. 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 roughly four errors a 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 good example and check each prescription carefully to verify drug, dose and instructions!
Q. 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.
A. 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.
These tips and other ways to economize are in our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine. 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’ People’s Pharmacy, No. CA-99, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
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 Customs officials say they will start relaxing their enforcement.