Q. My wife lost her health insurance and we cannot afford her medications. We saw an ad in the paper about buying drugs by mail from Canada at substantial savings.
Needless to say, we are very interested. But your newspaper column suggesting that this is illegal has given us pause. I am a minister and I certainly do not want to break the law.
A. This issue is incredibly complicated. The FDA states that importing medicines from Canada or any other country is illegal. There is an exception, but only for drugs that are not available in the U.S.
Mail-order purchase of antidepressants like Zoloft or cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor would be considered against the law. The FDA and Customs do not appear to be enforcing their regulations, however. This is such a hot-button political issue that the feds seem reluctant to confiscate drugs or fine or jail senior citizens seeking affordable medicines.
Q. Is there any non-drug solution to extreme nausea during pregnancy? I am four months pregnant and nauseated all the time. Nothing my doctor has suggested has worked for more than a week or so. I am desperate.
A. Morning sickness is a misnomer for many women, since the nausea and vomiting can occur any time during the day. For some, the condition is so severe that they may lose weight and become dehydrated, putting the baby at risk.
One device that may help is called ReliefBand. It looks a lot like a wristwatch, but it delivers a mild pulse of electricity to an acupressure point on the inner wrist. This electronic tool is available by prescription for morning sickness, chemotherapy and post-operative nausea, and without prescription for motion sickness. You can learn more from the Web site: www.reliefband.com.
Q. My wife and I get very confused about how to take our medicine and what foods to avoid. We can’t seem to get a clear answer from either the doctor or pharmacist.
For example, I take Zestril and the pharmacist said bananas could be a problem with this drug. But I also take Lanoxin and my doctor said bananas are good because of the extra potassium. My pharmacist told me to avoid oatmeal as it could reduce the effectiveness of Lanoxin, but my doctor said this was nonsense.
My wife takes Levoxyl, Buspar and Zocor. The pharmacist told her to avoid grapefruit but said orange juice is OK. Now we hear that calcium-fortified orange juice is a problem. Please help straighten us out.
A. Too much potassium can be dangerous with drugs like Zestril, Altace, Lotensin or Vasotec. A single banana per day, however, is unlikely to cause trouble. Oatmeal and other high-fiber foods may interfere with the absorption of digoxin (Lanoxin).
Grapefruit affects dozens of drugs, including Zocor, Lipitor and Mevacor as well as Buspar and Valium. The calcium in fortified orange juice can reduce absorption of thyroid hormones such as Levoxyl or Synthroid.
To help you sort all this out we are sending you our Guides to Drug, Food & Grapefruit Interactions for more details on incompatibilities. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. FJ-19, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

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