alternatives toSudafed for HBP patients - allergy image - scriptsave wellrx

by Katie Tam
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

It’s allergy season and you can’t breathe the fresh air because your nose is congested and stuffed. You visit the pharmacy and purchase a box of Sudafed. Your pharmacist asks if you have a history of high blood pressure, and you answer “yes.” The pharmacist replies that she does not recommend Sudafed for you, but why?

What you need to know about Pseudoephedrine:

Brands of common over-the counter decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine: Allegra-D, Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine Liqui-Gels, Aleve Cold and Sinus Caplets, Benadryl Allergy and Sinus Tablets, Claritin-D Non-Drowsy 24 Hour Tablets, Robitussin Cold Severe Congestion Capsules, Sudafed 24 Hour Tablets, SudoGest, Wal-phed 12 hour, Suphedrine.2

Indications: nasal congestion, sinus congestion, and Eustachian tube congestion

Adverse side effects of pseudoephedrine:

  • Common: insomnia, nervousness, excitability, dizziness, and anxiety
  • Infrequent: tachycardia (rapid heart beat) or palpitations
  • Rare: dilated pupils, hallucinations, arrythmias (irregular heartbeat), high blood pressure, seizures, inflammation of the large intestine, and severe skin reactions

Contraindications for pseudoephedrine:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Severe or uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Severe coronary artery disease
  • Prostatic hypertrophy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Closed angle glaucoma
  • Pregnant women

Pseudoephedrine and High Blood Pressure Interaction

In 2005, a study showed that pseudoephedrine increased systolic blood pressure and heart rate, but had no effect on diastolic blood pressure.1 They also found that higher doses and immediate-release formulations of pseudoephedrine were associated with higher blood pressures.1 In addition, the study revealed that patients with well controlled hypertension had higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures after taking immediate release pseudoephedrine formulations.1

What are safe alternatives to pseudoephedrine in patients with high blood pressure?

There are a few safe and effective alternatives to pseudoephedrine in patients with high blood pressure that can relieve nasal or sinus congestion symptoms. Placing a humidifier in the bedroom keeps moisture in the air, which helps prevent your nasal passages from drying out. Humidifiers can also help break up mucus and soothe inflamed nasal passageways.3 In addition, propping your head up on 2 pillows may help the mucus flow out of your nose and relieve some congestion. Saline sprays are also another safe option that can loosen congestion and improve drainage.3 If a patient with high blood pressure insists on taking a medication that includes pseudoephedrine, their pharmacist or physician will recommend the patient to monitor their blood pressure and take a sustained-release formulation to reduce the risk of increasing blood pressure.3

Next time you have sinus or nasal congestion, ask your physician before using pseudoephedrine if you have high blood pressure. Your local pharmacist can also help manage nasal congestion symptoms, provide valuable information regarding safer alternatives, and ensure optimal drug selection in patients with high blood pressure.

Resources:

  1. Salerno SM, Jackson JL, Berbano EP. Effect of Oral Pseudoephedrine on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate: A Meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(15):1686–1694. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.15.1686.
  2. Radack  KDeck  CC Are oral decongestants safe in hypertension? an evaluation of the evidence and a framework for assessing clinical trials.  Ann Allergy 1986;56396- 401.
  3. High Blood Pressure and Cold Remedies: Which Are Safe? Mayo Clinic.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/high-blood-pressure/faq-20058281. Published January 09, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2019.

 

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activated charcoal image - scriptsave wellrx blog

by Terra Leon, PharmD Candidate 2019

With all the new diet and detoxification trends arising from celebrities and the media, it’s hard to know harmful from helpful. Activated charcoal has been portrayed as the new “magic bullet” for multiple health issues. Activated charcoal’s popularity is quickly spreading and turning up in supplements, juices, hangover remedies, face masks and even toothpaste. The media and celebrities promise it will reduce bloating, clear skin, whiten your teeth, and detox your organs for a healthier life. But does it work?

What is Activated Charcoal

Charcoal is a fine black powder made from bone char, coal, saw dust, olive pits, coconut shells or petroleum coke4. The charcoal becomes activated when it is heated at a high enough temperature the structure changes and provides a higher surface area for substances to bind to4. Activated charcoal’s oldest use is in medical practice in the Emergency Room as a treatment to detox patients who over dose on certain medications. When a patient over doses on a medication like Tylenol or Aspirin, activated charcoal is utilized to help trap toxins and gases in the gut. Since activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body it carries the toxins bound to its surface area out of your body through feces like a big drug sponge. Due to its highly negatively charged surface, activated charcoal attracts positively charged molecules for excretion, like toxins and gases but it can also have an effect on other medication and lead to lower absorption4.

Alternative Options

An alternative to activated charcoal to reduce gas and bloating, is to stick to a whole food plant-based diet, avoid products with artificial sweeteners, avoid carbonated drinks, and beer, which can release carbon dioxide gas, Also, be sure to eat and drink slowly1. Taking your time eating and drinking can help you swallow less air and reduce gas. Consult your health care provider for other alternative over-the-counter options, such as Gas-X, if natural options still don’t provide relief.

For clear skin try over the counter or prescription products that help reduce oils and clear bacteria on the skin surface. Make sure you wash your face every day and avoid high in oil foods to reduce surface oil1. Consult your healthcare professional if blemishes continue to arise.

If its whiter teeth you seek, try over the counter whitening kits that have hydrogen peroxide. Rinse your mouth after consuming coffee, soda or teas. Activated charcoal lacks published studies on being beneficial for teeth whitening. In fact, the fine black charcoal powder can potentially become embedded into cracks or small holes in the teeth producing the opposite effect1. Consult your dentist for alternative whitening procedures.

Not So Harmless?

Using activated charcoal supplement as a detoxification method is not as harmless as some may think.  Activated charcoal does not have the ability to suck out toxic chemicals from your body, its effects are limited to the GI tract3. It does not discriminate against helpful chemicals in food you consume and can remove beneficial nutrients such as Vitamin C, B6, Thiamine, Biotin and Niacin from the body3. To “detox” or cleanse the body make sure to drink plenty of water each day and eat a high in fiber diet to help naturally remove waste from the body.

Medication Interactions

Activated charcoal can reduce the absorption and interrupt the circulation of certain medications and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional2. If you are taking any prescription medication consult your doctor before using charcoal as a supplement or any other oral ingestible form. Due to its possibility of decreasing absorption of other medication it is recommended to take activated charcoal at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking other drugs if approved by your doctor2.

Bottom Line

With all the new health fads and trends offering a one supplement solve all solution or “magic bullet” it is easy to get sucked into the excitement of this new trend. When it comes to activated charcoal there are no strong studies supporting these benefits and weaker studies are not supported by science. Always consult your doctor or health care professional to gain all the information you need about a new product to determine if this product will be helpful or harmful to your personal health.

References:

  1. Calderone, Julia. “Activated Charcoal Isn’t a Magic Health Bullet.” Product Reviews and Ratings – Consumer Reports, Apr. 2017, consumerreports.org/dietary-supplements/activated-charcoal-fad-not-a-magic-health-bullet/.
  2. Charcoal Oral, Facts & Comparisons, 2018, https://fco.factsandcomparisons.com/lco/action/search?q=activated%2Bcharcoal&t=name&va=activated%2Bchar.
  3. Gavura, Scott. “Activated Charcoal: The Latest Detox Fad in an Obsessive Food Culture.” Science-Based Medicine, 28 Jan. 2016, sciencebasedmedicine.org/activated-charcoal-the-latest-detox-fad-in-an-obsessive-food-culture/. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/activated-charcoal-the-latest-detox-fad-in-an-obsessive-food-culture/
  4. Petre, Alina. “What Is Activated Charcoal Good For? Benefits and Uses.” Healthline, Healthline Media, June 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/activated-charcoal#section10.

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scriptsave wellrx - app update image

Tucson, AZ. January 23, 2019 – It’s a fact – prescription medications don’t work if patients don’t take them, or fail to take them correctly. Taking medications as prescribed by your physician can help improve the quality and length of your life. The latest release of the ScriptSave® WellRx app can help.

Importance of Taking Your Medications

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of Americans have used at least one prescription within the last 30 days. If you fall into this half of the country, you’ve probably already had the discussion with your doctor & pharmacist about the importance of following instructions, with insights on why it matters. One recent study, for example, shows that patients who were compliant with taking their statin medications for at least two years had a 30% reduction in the risk of hospitalization for heart attacks.1

Even with all the benefits medications can have on a patient’s health, there is still an issue with adherence to medication therapy.

scriptsave wellrx medication reminders - app imageThe ScriptSave WellRx App

 

Not only does the new ScriptSave WellRx app release provide prescription price transparency, it also allows patients to set alerts for when they’re due to take their next pill, as well as when it’s time to order their next refill from the pharmacy. Meanwhile, built in functionality helps patients track side-effects that they might want to share with their doctor (using the ScriptSave WellRx Mood Log, which can be launched from the virtual Medicine Chest).

In addition, the newest enhancement for users of the WellRx platform also provides free access to some potentially life-saving functionality:

  • Drug Interaction Warnings: Patients can receive and share warnings when drugs in their personal in-app Medicine Chest might interact with each other.
  • Lifestyle Interaction Warnings: This includes warnings about potential drug interactions with certain foods patients eat, or activities they might engage in.
  • Expanded Drug Information: Patients can view detailed information, images, and videos for drugs within the Medicine Chest. Much of this information is available in English and Spanish.

The new release also caters to users who wish take advantage of the added security afforded by biometric login. Users can set up fingerprint password management for the app, making signing in quick, easy and secure.

About ScriptSave WellRx

ScriptSave WellRx, owned by parent company Medical Security Card Company, LLC (MSC) and a member of the MedImpact, Inc. family of companies, offers savings on prescription medicines at more than 62,000 local and chain pharmacies, nationwide. ScriptSave WellRx is an online resource that makes prescription medicines more affordable and easier to manage for people who are uninsured, underinsured, or insured with high deductible plans.

References:

  1. Lansberg, P., Lee, A., Lee, Z., Subramaniam, K. and Setia, S. (2018). Nonadherence to statins: individualized intervention strategies outside the pill box. Vascular Health and Risk Management, Volume 14, pp.91-102.

 

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searching online for health information - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

When it comes to health information on the internet, many patients are no longer sure what to believe. Just as important, patients often don’t know how to apply what they have read. Healthcare providers have the opportunity to help patients navigate through the vast variety of online health information.

Take the Practice Trends Today quiz (here) from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) to learn more about helping patients understand the results of their online healthcare searches.

Click Here to take the quiz.


Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.

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visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you.
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bleeding risk - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Randall Flores, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona

Bleeding can manifest itself in a variety of different ways which, at times, may not be easy to recognize. Some bleeds are also more serious than others and may require emergency medical attention. Bleeding frequency may also vary depending on a variety of factors such as underlying bleeding disorders or the use of certain medications.5

Potential Signs of Different Types of Bleeding

Gastrointestinal Bleeds5 
  • Bloody or black, tar-like stool
  • Weakness
  • Paleness
  • Swollen or firm abdomen
  • Vomiting or coughing blood
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
Urinary Tract Bleeds5  
  • Bright red or brown-colored urine
  • Pink urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Lower-back pain
Nosebleeds5  
  • Prolonged headache
  • Confusion, lethargy, and/or slurred speech
  • Discomfort to bright light
  • Double vision
  • Enlarged pupils or different size pupils
  • Dizziness and/or stumbling
  • Stiff neck or back
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden or forceful vomiting not due to upset stomach
Throat Bleeds5  
  • Choking
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Swelling or discoloration in the neck
  • Change in tone of voice
Eye Bleeds5  
  • Swelling or pain within or around the eye
  • Reddening of the white part of the eye
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Change in vision

Monitoring Lab Results While Taking Anticoagulants

Anticoagulation therapy is vital to the prevention and treatment of thromboembolic diseases; however, close monitoring is very important to treat and prevent harmful adverse effects. Lab monitoring is an important part of anticoagulation therapy to determine if it is necessary to counterbalance the anticoagulant effect of the drug4. Each drug has its own recommendations on lab monitoring depending on how it works in the body and possible adverse effects.

Coumadin (warfarin) remains the most prescribed oral anticoagulant medication worldwide despite the higher risk for bleeding compared to alternative anticoagulants1. The use of warfarin entails frequent blood tests and patient education about food and drug interactions4. The laboratory test that are most frequently monitored are prothrombin time (PT) and international normalized ratio (INR). PT is a test used to measure the number of seconds it takes for a clot to form3. INR on the other hand, is a more standardized PT measure so that it may serve as a reference value on how to adjust the dose depending on the result3. Higher INRs represent thinner blood, while lower INRs represent thicker blood.  [ Read more on our blog post, Losing the War With Warfarin? ]

New oral anticoagulants (NOACs) now formally known as direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) have a few advantages over the use of warfarin. DOACs include dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and apixaban (Eliquis). One of the biggest advantages over warfarin is that DOACs typically do not require dose adjustments and routine monitoring4. There are however some recommendations of monitoring certain parameters in patients with specific circumstances and comorbidities. Kidney function is an important parameter to monitor because all DOACs are eliminated by the kidney and impairment is a risk factor for bleeding1.

Antidote Medications to Reverse the Effects of Anticoagulants?

There are several reversal agent options for warfarin, despite its challenging management. The reversal agents used for warfarin include phytonadione (vitamin K), fresh frozen plasma (FFP), and prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC)2. The availability of these agents makes warfarin a viable option for patients who are at increased risk of bleeding and enables it to still be recommended by guidelines2.

DOACs are becoming more popular due to safety and efficacy over other anticoagulants, however only one of these agents has an FDA-approved reversal agent. Praxbind (idarucizumab) received accelerated FDA approval due to its promising results in clinical trials as a reversal agent to dabigatran (Pradaxa)2.

Currently, there is one agent called andexanet alfa that in phase III clinical trials as a reversal agent to the remaining DOAC agents2. As the use of DOAC agents become more popular, the need for effective antidotes is demanded.

Whether a someone is on anticoagulant therapy or not, it is important for people to have a general understanding about bleeding risks and how to identify different types of bleeds. Patients on anticoagulant therapy should also have a general idea about the monitoring that their therapy entails, potential risks, and management of those risks. The more patients know, the lower their chance of hospitalization from bleeding.

References:

1 Conway, S. E., Hwang, A. Y., Ponte, C. D., & Gums, J. G. (2016). Laboratory and Clinical Monitoring of Direct Acting Oral Anticoagulants: What Clinicians Need to Know. Pharmacotherapy, 37(2), 236-248. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/phar.1884

2 Griffiths, C., Vestal, M., Livengood, S. and Hicks, S. (2017). Reversal agents for oral anticoagulants. [online] The Nurse Practitioner. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/tnpj/fulltext/2017/11000/Reversal_agents_for_oral_anticoagulants.2.aspx [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].

3 Hull , R., Garcia, D., Vazquez, S. (2018). Warfarin (Coumadin) Beyond the Basics. UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/warfarin-coumadin-beyond-the-basics

4 Ramos-Esquivel, A. (2015). Monitoring anticoagulant therapy with new oral agents. World Journal of Methodology5(4), 212–215. http://doi.org/10.5662/wjm.v5.i4.212

5 The Basics of Bleeding Disorders. (2018). National Hemophilia Foundation. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://stepsforliving.hemophilia.org/basics-of-bleeding-disorders/identifying-types-of-bleeds


If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you.
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morning sickness - scriptsave wellrx blog image

By Pawel F. Kojs, PharmD Candidate Class of 2019,
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Morning sickness or nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) occurs in 70-80% of pregnant women.  In the United States, roughly 4 million women are affected each year.  This is more common in women that live in Western countries.1 A small percentage of women are affected each year with the more extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).1

To help with this condition, there are many remedies to consider with your provider.

How can diet help with morning sickness?

With respect to diet, it is best to avoid large meals and eat smaller meals more often throughout the day.  Eating more protein and less fat is advised as well.2

Even though it’s difficult, eating foods that do not have a high flavor profile and ones that are low in fat helps reduce the time it takes for food to leave the stomach.  This in turn helps with reducing the amount of symptoms one would have with morning sickness.2

Which options can help me with morning Sickness?

There are different options to help treat morning sickness. Avoid smells, foods, tastes, and smells that trigger that nauseous feeling. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any new prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and nutritional/herbal supplements.

Prescription Options

Disclaimer: Always consult with your provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

OTC Options

These options for pregnancy related nausea and vomiting are commonly used. The types of medications are available at your neighborhood pharmacy, but it is recommended to monitor for drowsiness or sedation.

Disclaimer: Always consult with your provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Prenatal Supplements

It is advisable to talk to a doctor regarding getting a proper prenatal supplementation. You and your provider can discuss how much folic acid you should take. US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Women’s Health (DHHS) recommends taking at least 400 – 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting at least three months before conception.3 Prenatal supplements should be taken on an empty stomach. If you experience stomach upset, try taking it before bed with a light snack.

References:


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medications can increase your fall risk - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Roxanna Orsini
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Falls Happen More Often Than You Think

Every year there are millions of falls occurring in the older population, aged 65 and older.2 About 1 out of 4 older people fall each year, with less than half reporting it to their doctor.2 Your chances of a recurrent fall doubles after your first fall. The emergency department (ED) treats about 3 million older individuals for fall injuries each year.2 The most common injuries seen in the ED after a fall includes fractures, superficial injuries, and head injuries.(2,3) Patients have reported a reduction in their quality of life up to 9 months after being admitted in the ED for a fall.3

After a fall you may develop a fear of falling. This can cause negative health effects including:3

  • Recurrent falls
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Restriction or avoidance of social activities
  • Depression/anxiety

Are You at Risk for a Fall?

Here are a few questions to help you determine if you are at risk of a fall:5

  • Do you rush to use the bathroom?
  • Do you take a medication to help you sleep or improve your mood?
  • Do you take a medication that sometimes makes you feel light-headed or more tired than usual?
  • Do you use or have been advised to use a cane or walker?
  • Have you lost some feeling in your feet?
  • Do you feel unsteady when walking at times?
  • Have you had a previous fall?

Answering yes to any of these questions should warrant a conversation with your doctor about getting screened for your risk of falling.

There are certain chronic medical conditions that can contribute to your chances of a fall such as arthritis, dementia, stroke, cataracts, Parkinson’s disease, and urinary incontinence.1 Some of the medications used for these health conditions can increase your risk of a fall. However, falls can be caused by almost any medication that effects your brain or blood circulation.

Some Medications Can Increase the Risk of a Fall

A few medications that can increase your risk of a fall include:3

Most of these medications can decrease your alertness, cause fatigue, dizziness, and drop your blood pressure when you stand up (also referred to as postural hypotension).1

Postural hypotension occurs in about 30% of older adults and may experience one of these symptoms within 1 minute to several minutes of standing up:4

  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

If you are taking any of these medications, experiencing any of these symptoms or taking more than 6 medications, talk to your doctor about your risk for a fall.4 Your doctor may need to reduce or change your medication to help reduce your symptoms and fall risk, never make any changes to your medication without consulting your doctor first.

Balance, medications, and home safety should be addressed in everyone at high risk.4 To help maintain the highest level of mobility and reduce your chances of falling or risk of injury, follow up with your doctor. Your doctor can provide tips and recommend exercises designed to prevent falls and help avoid unnecessary trips to the Emergency Department.

 

References:

  1. Berg, R. and Cassells, J. (1992). Falls in Older Persons: Risk Factors and Prevention. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235613/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2018].
  2. gov. (2018). Important Facts about Falls | Home and Recreational Safety | CDC Injury Center. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html [Accessed 20 Jul. 2018].
  3. de Jong, M., Van der Elst, M. and Hartholt, K. (2013). Drug-related falls in older patients: implicated drugs, consequences, and possible prevention strategies. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 4(4), pp.147-154.
  4. Phelan, E., Mahoney, J., Voit, J. and Stevens, J. (2015). Assessment and Management of Fall Risk in Primary Care Settings. Medical Clinics of North America, 99(2), pp.281-293.
  5. Sri‐on, J., Tirrell, G., Kamsom, A., Marill, K., Shankar, K. and Liu, S. (2018). A High‐yield Fall Risk and Adverse Events Screening Questions From the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Death, and Injuries (STEADI) Guideline for Older Emergency Department Fall Patients. Academic Emergency Medicine.

Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.

If you’re struggling to afford your prescription medications,
visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you.
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imprtance of iodine - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Marcus Harding
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

What is Iodine and why is it important?

You may be wondering, “Why do I need iodine in my salt or other food?” Iodine is an essential element our bodies need that we cannot produce on our own, and therefore need to get it from food sources1. Iodine is needed to produce the thyroid hormone, which is important for bodily functions related to metabolism and how our cells use the energy they are given1. Iodine is found in foods such as cheese, milk, eggs, ice cream, saltwater fish, iodized table salt and some multivitamins1. Most people get their daily intake of iodine from iodized table salt1. There is, however, a large population of people who have heart disease or high blood pressure, who are asked by their doctors to not consume as much salt as others.

Who should reduce their salt intake and by how much?

iodized salt - scriptsave wellrx blog image

Heart disease and high blood pressure afflict a large percent of the U.S. population today. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart disease and Stroke Statistics of 2018 estimates that 31.1% of the world’s population has high blood pressure, and they predict that by 2035, more than 45% of the US population will have some form of cardiovascular disease2. It is because of these abnormally high numbers that the AHA has diet and lifestyle recommendations for being “heart healthy,” that they recommend to everyone, not just people who have heart disease or high blood pressure.

One such recommendation is to reduce the amount of sodium consumed each day. Sodium can cause water retention in your body, increasing blood pressure and making your heart work harder than it needs to3. The average American consumes more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. The AHA recommends having less than 1,500 milligrams per day3. For reference, 1 teaspoon is about 2,300 mg of salt. The AHA reports that the body really only needs about 500 milligrams per day, so eating a heart healthy diet will still get you enough sodium to meet the daily requirements3.

How do I get enough Iodine on a low sodium diet?

So, what can you do to make sure you get enough iodine daily, while eating a heart healthy diet?  It is simple. The body needs 150 micrograms of iodine per day1. For reference, a teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 400 micrograms of iodine1. If you wanted to cut out salt in your diet and be under 1500 milligrams of salt per day, that is still at least 260 micrograms of iodine per day, which is greater than the 150 micrograms a day that your body needs. Keep in mind that the majority of people in the US are getting such large amounts of sodium through salty snacks, processed meats, and the typical “unhealthy foods” that the AHA is trying to help people avoid. Make sure that the sodium you do consume is iodized so that you are reaching that 150-microgram daily recommendation.

Overall, there is no need to fear not getting enough iodine while restricting sodium in your diet, as long as you make sure the salt you eat is iodized, and not coming from processed meats, potato chips and other salty snacks. Following the American Heart Association’s recommendations, you should still be getting more than the recommended daily amount of iodine. If you are concerned about the amount of iodine in your diet, there are multivitamins out there that contain 150 micrograms that can be taken daily.  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, your local pharmacist is well equipped to answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction.

 

References

  1. “Iodine Deficiency.” American Thyroid Association, http://thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/.
  2. Benjamin, Emelia J, et all. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics— 2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.” American Heart Association, 2 Mar. 2017, http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/137/12/e67.
  3. “How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?” Sodium Breakup, http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat.

If you’re struggling to afford your prescription medications,
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Walmart Announces New Opioid Rules - pill image WellRx

On May 7, 2018, Walmart issued a press release to announce the pending introduction (within 60 days) of new restrictions on how it will fill prescriptions for opioid medications. These new initiatives will apply to all Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies and pharmacists in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Walmart indicated that these changes are “an effort to continue to be part of the solution to our nation’s opioid epidemic,” and it reflects a further expansion of the company’s Opioid Stewardship Initiative. The move from Walmart follows a similar initiative by CVS that went into effect in February. Increasingly, retail pharmacies are stepping up efforts to stem the spread of opioid addiction, prevent overdoses and curb over-prescribing by doctors.

What Doctors Need to know, and What it Means for Patients with Legitimate Prescriptions

Walmart is the fourth-largest pharmacy chain in the US and these changes (being introduced over the course of a 60-day period) are likely to touch a number of patients. The retailer will move to restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply, while also limiting a day’s total dose to no more than the equivalent of 50 morphine milligrams. Meanwhile, in states where the law for fills on new acute opioid prescriptions is less than seven days, Walmart and Sam’s Club will follow state law.

In addition to these immediate-term changes, by January 1, 2020, Walmart and Sam’s Club will require e-prescriptions for controlled substances.

In terms of patients needing acute or short-time pain management, in the event that the pain lasts longer than a seven-day supply (and still warrants treatment with these medications), the patient will have to consult his/her physician in order to obtain a new prescription.

Such restrictions have prompted concern that requiring patients to obtain a new prescription after seven, or sometimes only three days (depending on the state), can become too costly due to mandatory co-pays. Dr. Steven Stanos, former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine explained that the organization applauds “any action that seeks to limit the over-prescription of opioids,” but added, “That needs to be balanced with the very real need of patients.”

For this reason, doctors and patients should be engaging in dialog about current and alternative medications and possible savings options, as they formulate a strategy for effective pain management.


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Serotonin Syndrome - WellRx blog image

by Bhargavi Jayaraman, PharmD Candidate

A Challenging Diagnosis, but What is Serotonin1?

The varying symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. Early serotonin syndrome symptoms, including diarrhea, high blood pressure, anxiety and agitation, can be easily confused with less serious conditions. Serotonin is a chemical produced by the nerve cells that acts on almost every part of the body. It’s helps with sleeping, eating, digestion, and is considered to be a natural mood stabilizer. It also helps reduce depression and anxiety, heal wounds, stimulate nausea and maintain bone health. When your serotonin levels are normal, you should feel happier, more calm, emotionally stable, less anxious, and more focused. A deficiency of serotonin would make you experience anxiety and/or insomnia. Many people who experience depression, anxiety, or need mood stabilizers take medications that help to increase serotonin levels in the body.

Medications That Increase Your Serotonin Levels2

With the proliferation of antidepressant drugs on the market, there is an increasing number of medications that can raise your body’s serotonin levels. But it’s not just antidepressants that can have this impact. Medications that increase serotonin levels in the body include:

Too Much of Something is Never Good

If serotonin has so many benefits to the mood and can help everyone in their daily functioning, shouldn’t we all want to take as many serotonin increasing medications as possible? The answer is no. Too much of any chemical compound in our body is never a good thing. Serotonin syndrome occurs when medications cause an accumulation of a high level of serotonin in the body. Symptoms of too much serotonin in the body can range from mild to severe, and severe serotonin syndrome can be fatal if not treated1.

What are the Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome2?

There are no tests to diagnose serotonin syndrome1. Instead, your doctor might perform a physical exam and ask you some questions to diagnose serotonin syndrome. Due to the lack of diagnostic criteria, the exact prevalence of serotonin syndrome is unknown, however, it is known to be an extremely rare condition. So if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, it’s important that you don’t stop taking any of your medications, but rather, make an appointment to see your doctor to rule out serotonin syndrome.

Mild symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of muscle coordination or twitching muscles
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps

More severe symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:

  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness

Prevention is Key2

Taking more than one drug that increases serotonin levels, or increasing the dose of one of these medications, can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome. Make sure your doctor is aware of all the medications you are taking, and discuss any risks and concerns with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you understand how the medications can interact.

How Can You Naturally Increase Your Serotonin Levels1?

Since serotonin offers so many benefits to your mood and health, you may want to consider ways to naturally increase your serotonin levels. Some ways to stimulate natural production of serotonin include:

  • Exposure to light: sunshine or bright light to treat seasonal depression can raise your serotonin levels.
  • Exercise: getting regular exercise can help to elevate your mood and offers other health benefits!
  • A healthy diet: including foods that can help to increase serotonin levels, like eggs, cheese, turkey, salmon, nuts, tofu, and pineapple, can elevate your natural serotonin supply.
  • Meditation: helps to relieve stress and promotes a positive outlook on life, thereby increasing your serotonin levels.

References:

  1. Scaccia A. Serotonin: What You Need to Know. Healthline Newsletter. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin. Published May 18, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2018.
  2. Serotonin syndrome. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/serotonin-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354758. Published January 20, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2018.

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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asthma inhaler image

by Tek Neopaney

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airway tubes of the lungs. During asthma attacks, the walls inside of the airway become sore, swollen, and red and produce mucus, making it harder to breathe. The airway tubes become very sensitive when they are inflamed and may react strongly to allergens. Air movement in and out of the lungs is constricted when inflammation is present, resulting in shortness of breath.

What Makes Asthma Worse?

There are many triggers of asthma. Common inhaled allergens that you may encounter at a daycare, home, school or work can trigger an asthma attack. Some avoidable allergens include mold, excretions from dust mites, cockroaches, and mice.

It’s common for many patients with high blood pressure to also have asthma. Some of the most effective and proven blood pressure medications are known to cause negative effects in people with asthma, so care is required in developing effective treatment plans.

Of the many different drugs available for treating hypertension, beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have the most potential to cause problems for asthma patients.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are medications commonly used for pain. However, NSAIDs, like naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin) can sometimes make asthma symptoms worse. Other body reactions, including upper airway illness, hormonal fluctuation, and extreme emotions, can trigger asthma attacks.

How Can You Control Your Asthma?

Influenza can worsen asthma symptoms and cause complications, so it’s important to get a flu vaccine annually. The best way to treat asthma is identifying and avoiding triggers, taking medication regularly in order to prevent symptoms, and treating asthma episodes as they occur. Home monitoring of the peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) can be very helpful, because it measures the airflow through airway and thus the degree of obstruction of airways. A peak flow meter is inexpensive and an easy way to assess asthma control.

Symptoms of Uncontrolled Asthma

If you have any of the following symptoms it’s considered uncontrolled asthma:

  • Coughing, wheezing, rapid breathing, or tightness of the chest experienced daily
  • Nighttime awakening more than twice a week
  • Need to use a short acting inhaler more than twice a week
  • If the asthma symptom is interfering with normal activities

Medications Used in Asthma Treatment

Long acting anticholinergic agents or beta agonists are the mainstay of asthma therapy. Common medications include:

These medications should be used regular for asthma control. Often, these medications can be combined. For example, in case of severe asthma, patients are often prescribed Acidinium and formoterol fumarate to use together on a regular basis.

Short acting inhalers, sometimes called rescue inhalers, are used for immediate symptomatic control:

How Do Asthma Medications Work?

Long acting anticholinergic agents work by competitively inhibiting the action of airway constriction. Short acting inhalers help to open up the airways by relaxing muscles of airway tubes.

Making an Asthma Action Plans

When you have asthma, your goal is to have a normal active life, and good control of your asthma. If your asthma is not well controlled, you may need to increase your medication and learn more about what triggers your asthma attacks. Your physician and pharmacist can provide you with information and an action plan to take care of your condition, so you can continue to be active and healthy.

References:

  1. Bateman, Eric D., et al. “Overall asthma control: the relationship between current control and future risk.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 125.3 (2010): 600-608.
  2. Kew, K. M., & Dahri, K. (2016). Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA) added to combination long-acting beta2-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids (LABA/ICS) versus LABA/ICS for adults with asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).
  3. Friedman, B. C., & Goldman, R. D. (2010). Influenza vaccination for children with asthma. Canadian Family Physician56(11), 1137-1139.
  4. Zheng, T., Yu, J., Oh, M. H., & Zhu, Z. (2011). The atopic march: progression from atopic dermatitis to allergic rhinitis and asthma. Allergy, asthma & immunology research3(2), 67-73.

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Medication for insomnia image

by Alyssa Kasher, PharmD Candidate 2018
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Sleep is a precious commodity that everyone needs to function. Individual sleep needs are different; some people need a few extra hours while others need less. Some people are light sleepers, while others “sleep like logs.” Sleep habits can also change temporarily, for example during college or after a baby is born. Despite varying needs, all people need adequate sleep to function. Sleep loss negatively affects work performance, mood and overall health. In light of this, it is important to identify factors that are causing you to lose sleep. It’s important to speak with your doctor to see if ongoing sleep problems are caused by clinical insomnia.

How do I know it’s clinical insomnia?

Clinical insomnia is diagnosed by having all of the following 3 conditions1:

  1.       Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early
  2.       The above difficulty occurs even with plenty of time to sleep in an ideal environment
  3.       Sleep loss causes decreased function during the daytime

What causes insomnia?

Historically, insomnia has been viewed as a condition that occurs secondary to another disease or condition. Recent studies show us that insomnia does occur by itself without any identifiable reasons1. You should still check with your doctor to see if another medication you take or condition you have is causing insomnia.

Treatment of insomnia

First line treatment for insomnia includes behavioral counseling and improving sleep hygiene. For information on non-drug therapies, check out our previous blog post written by Jenny Bingham, PharmDShould you and your doctor decide to use medication to treat insomnia, it is important to tell your doctor about other medication you are taking as well as any conditions you have.

Over the Counter Medications

  • Antihistamines purchased over the counter are commonly used to induce sleep as they can cause drowsiness1. While they are helpful, these medications should only be used short term. If your problems with sleep continue, you should consult with your doctor to ensure you get the appropriate treatment.

Prescription Medications

  • Non-benzodiazepines include other sleep drugs with varying mechanisms. They differ from benzodiazepines in that they usually have less anti-anxiety effects. Some of these drugs are approved only for short term use; while drugs formulated as extended release are better suited for long term use1.
  • Antidepressants can be used for sleep as many of them have a sedating effect. These are particularly useful in people who concurrently suffer from depression or anxiety, because the drug is also treating a potential cause of insomnia. The only antidepressant specifically FDA approved for insomnia is Silenor (doxepin) 1.
  • Other drugs are used for insomnia that have unique mechanisms
    • Rozerem (ramelteon) is a drug that encourages your body to release melatonin, which makes you sleepy. It has less side effects and less addiction potential than other drug types. It is also not a controlled substance.
    • Belsomra (suvorexant) is a first of its kind drug that blocks molecules in your brain that encourage wakefulness1. Because it has a long half-life, it can still cause day time drowsiness. It is a controlled substance due to abuse potential.

General Considerations

  • Sleep medications can make you drowsy, dizzy or experience day time sedation.
  • Many medications used to treat insomnia have a potential to be habit forming. They may also worsen insomnia if stopped suddenly. Use them exactly as directed by your doctor.
  • Sleep medications can impair your ability to perform tasks, so it is crucial to only take them once you are ready for bed. Do not use alcohol as impairment may be worsened.

Considerations in the Elderly

  • Since most sleep medications cause drowsiness to induce sleep, they can be especially dangerous when used in the elderly. This is true of both over the counter sleep medications (like diphenhydramine) as well as prescription drugs. This drowsiness can cause confusion, memory issues and serious falls. Consult your pharmacist or doctor before starting sleep medication.

 

References:

  1. Arand DL, Bonnet MH. Treatment of insomnia in adults. In: Basow DS, ed., UpToDate. Waltham (MA): UpToDate; 2016

Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash discount price at pharmacies near you.
You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

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