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Archive for June, 2011

Making Integrative Choices – Complementary and Alternative Medicine


(as published in the Syracuse Post Standard, June 21, 2011)

Many migraine sufferers and patients with back pain choose acupuncture to relieve their pain. Breast cancer patients are finding improved outcomes from meditation as they go through chemotherapy. Both acupuncture and meditation are considered “complementary” therapies, as are yoga, reiki, therapeutic massage and similar therapies.  They don’t replace traditional medical treatment – they supplement it.

You might take echinacea to help fight a cold, or glucosamine to relieve knee pain.  These and other herbal supplements like ginseng or fish oil are considered “alternative” remedies, and are sometimes chosen in place of pharmaceutical drugs your doctor might prescribe.

Of course, most of us who choose complementary or alternative therapies do so without our doctors knowing about it.  In fact, when we visit the doctor and are asked what medicines we have been taking, some of us intentionally withhold that information. We don’t want our doctors to be upset with us.

That can be problematic and may even be unnecessary.  More and more doctors are recommending certain CAM (complementary and alternative) treatments for their patients.  Some medical practices are evolving into “integrative” practices where treatments are proposed based on what they believe will be helpful, regardless of whether it’s considered traditional medicine, or CAM.

Integrative medicine combines the best of both worlds of treatment approaches. If a CAM therapy can be useful, it may be recommended.  But pharmaceutical drugs and surgeries will be options, too.

We patients don’t really care what a therapy is called or who developed it. We just want something that works.  Unfortunately, not enough of our Western, traditionally trained doctors know enough about Eastern, complementary and alternative therapies and therefore won’t recommend them.  Further, the doctors who know the least may be very vocal and intimidating about their disdain for the ones we might like to try.

If you have interest in CAM therapies and are in search of a new doctor, be sure to inquire about a doctor’s willingness to discuss or prescribe the types of therapies you are interested in as you make your first appointment.

If you like the doctor you have now but so far he has been unwilling to discuss integrative therapies, then ask if he will partner with you to learn more about them. If he says no, then it may be time to find a new doctor, one who is willing to explore possibilities for improving your health through integrative care.

………. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC ………………

What is CAM?

CAM Controversies

Why Won’t Health Insurance Pay for CAM?

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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About.com Patient Empowerment

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Is It Safe to Purchase Prescription Drugs Online?

(as published in the Syracuse Post Standard, June 7, 2011)

One question I’m asked frequently is whether it’s safe to purchase prescription drugs on the Internet.

Whether you like the convenience or hope to save money by purchasing online, the short answer is “Sure! Go for it!” But that’s followed by some cautionary advice, too.

If you have prescription coverage through your insurer or Medicare, then consider purchasing your prescription drugs online from a pharmacy that works with your insurance. Most of the major pharmacies like Rite-Aid, CVS, or Walgreens have websites where you can, at least, refill a prescription.

Most larger payers also work with mail order pharmacies like Express Scripts, Caremark or Medco.  Each of these companies offers a convenient way to fill or refill your prescriptions on their websites. Some even send refill reminders to your doctor.

Saving money is a big reason to shop for prescription drugs online.  If you don’t have prescription drug coverage, or if you are at risk of falling into Medicare’s donut hole, you’ll want to keep your cost as low as possible.

There are several websites available to help you compare drug prices and it’s definitely worth your effort to do so.  For example, the cost for Lipitor 20 mg finds a range of $85.70 to $284.16 for a 90-day supply.  That can save you $1,200 per year! Find that list of cost comparison websites here:  How to Compare Drug Prices Online.

The biggest cautions are safety-related.  You’ll want to protect your identity, since you’ll need to use your credit card. You’ll also need confidence that the drugs you receive are the actual drugs you ordered and not watered down or counterfeit versions.

The best way to be sure you are purchasing drugs safely is to be sure the online pharmacy you choose has been reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Once they review an Internet pharmacy, it is assigned to one of two lists: either its list of “rogue” pharmacies, those known to be unsafe, or “VIPPS” pharmacies, meaning Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites – the safe sites.

Purchasing your prescription drugs online can be a time saver, a money saver, and is especially helpful for those who have trouble with transportation.  As long as you make sure you’re purchasing from a bona fide safe pharmacy, then it’s a smart approach to purchasing your drugs.

………. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC ………………

How to Safely and Legally Buy Drugs from Online Pharmacies

How to Buy Drugs from Foreign Pharmacies

How to Compare Drug Prices Online

……………………………………………………………………………………

Want More Patient Empowerment?
Find Hundreds of Articles at:

Every Patient’s Advocate

About.com Patient Empowerment

…and…
sign up for 2x per month newsletters of
Patient Empowerment Tips

……………………………………………………………………………………