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Canadian drugs are bitter pill for pharmacist

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Question: As a practicing pharmacist, I have to read your column because my patients do. Half of the time I applaud you, but I often disagree with you.

Many letters complain about the high cost of prescription drugs. So why bash generics?

You mention Canada as a less expensive alternative, but you don't tell readers that Canadian mail-order pharmacies have two sets of inventory. One is for Canadians and is regulated by their version of the Food and Drug Administration. The other inventory, for mail order, is not regulated and not to be dispensed to Canadian citizens.

Answer: We are not against generic drugs, but we worry that the FDA might not have adequate resources to monitor quality consistently.

Purchasing prescription drugs from Canada is illegal, as we always state. The FDA is not anxious to prosecute grandmothers who buy blood pressure pills across the border, though.

We checked with David McKay, director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. He assures us that Canadian mail-order pharmacies do not use separate inventories for Americans and Canadians. Many of the medicines used in Canada come from the same manufacturing plants as those dispensed in U.S. pharmacies.

Question: A reader recently asked about sources of potassium other than bananas and orange juice. An 8-ounce glass of Low Sodium V8 juice has 840 mg (24 percent daily value), with only 50 calories.

Answer: Several readers brought this great source of potassium to our attention. Low Sodium V8 vegetable juice has more potassium than either orange juice or a banana. Potassium is especially important for people taking diuretics that deplete the body of this essential mineral.

Question: I have sensitive skin and cannot tolerate chemical sunscreens. As soon as I put something on, my skin starts to sting or burn. Some products cause an ugly, itchy dermatitis.

I love working in the yard, but I hate to get burned. Long sleeves and pants are not practical when it's hot. Are there any sunscreens that wouldn't cause problems?

Answer: Look for products with physical rather than chemical blockers. Ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide should offer you protection without irritation. Clinique and Neutrogena both make sunscreens with these blockers.

Another brand is Blue Lizard Australian Suncream. The company just brought out a "Baby" formulation with an SPF of 30 for sensitive skin of all ages. Pharmacies can order it from Del-Ray Dermatologicals (www.bluelizard.net), or you can call 1-800-334-4286 to find a store in your area.

Question: Constipation is an everyday problem for me. With only two movements a week, I often feel bloated and uncomfortable.

I drink six glasses of water daily, eat more than six servings of fruits and vegetables and only eat whole-wheat bread. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: You are doing everything right, but that might not be enough, especially if you are taking calcium or drugs that are constipating. Two teaspoons of flaxseed simmered in 1 quart water makes a good fiber solution (2 oz per day in juice). Extra magnesium (300 mg) might also help, provided your kidneys are healthy.

We would like to send you our Guide to Constipation, with a list of drugs that cause trouble and our 10 tips to combat constipation. Anyone who would like a copy may send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. GG-30, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.


In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at pharmacy@mindspring.com or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org. Their newest book is "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies" (St. Martin's Press). © King Features Syndicate Inc.