Q. Is it true that buying prescription medicines in Canada is illegal? I have seen ads for online pharmacies based in Canada and I am desperate to save money on my drugs. I spend well over $100 a month that I cannot afford.

If I were to purchase my medicine using the Internet, what is the likelihood I’d get caught? Does the FDA monitor the mail and send police if you import glaucoma medicine?

This sounds ridiculous, but I don’t want to go to jail. Haven’t politicians taken busloads of people across the border to buy their medicine? Are they all criminals?

A. It is illegal to buy prescription medicines from a foreign country. If someone has a serious condition for which effective treatment may not be available in the U.S., a person can legally bring in a 90-day supply of medication. If the medicine is already available in this country, however, the FDA says you can’t buy it abroad just to save money.

Neither the FDA nor the U.S. Customs Service is arresting busloads of senior citizens as they return from Canada or Mexico with medicine. Technically they are criminals because they are breaking the law. We agree that this is ridiculous. Politicians should change the law or provide prescription drug coverage.

Q. My husband is diabetic and takes Glucophage for sugar control, Lipitor to lower cholesterol, and Coumadin because he has atrial fibrillation. The Coumadin makes our lives extremely complicated.

His diabetic diet is already restrictive, but his doctor says he’s not supposed to eat more than half a cup of salad or vegetables. Otherwise it throws his bleeding time off. I want to give him vitamins, but that interferes with the Coumadin too. We’ve lost friends because of internal hemorrhaging caused by Coumadin.

We’re also very confused about grapefruit. They’re just coming into season, and they make a wonderful dessert for a diabetic. But we’ve heard it may not be safe with Lipitor. We’d be grateful for any information you could send us.

A. Coumadin is complicated because it interacts with so many foods, herbs and other medicines. Your husband doesn’t need to restrict his vegetable intake, but he should keep his vitamin K consumption as constant as possible.

Grapefruit increases blood levels of Lipitor. This could lead to increased risk of side effects such as muscle weakness, pain or even nerve damage. There are cholesterol medicines that are not affected by grapefruit, so if his doctor agrees to change his prescription he wouldn’t need to give up grapefruit.

We are sending you our Guides to Coumadin and Grapefruit Interactions. Anyone who would like copies, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DJ-69, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. When I apply Nair cream for facial hair to my jaw line, chin and neck, it works wonders. But is it true that using a depilatory will encourage the hairs to grow back faster?

A. Neither shaving nor using a depilatory cream will make hair grow faster. You may notice the first bit of growth more as it pokes up out of the skin, though. The same amount of growth on longer hair is less noticeable.

Vaniqa is a prescription cream that also reduces facial hair growth in women. You might discuss this option with your doctor.

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