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Dr. Zorba Paster: SAD lights, cheaper medications and more

February 2, 2019
David Stluka Portrait of Dr. Zorba Paster on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 in Oregon, Wis. (Photo by David Stluka)

Dear Dr. Z: I recently read your excellent article about light therapy to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I think I would benefit from such a light. Does the light need to shine on bare skin? If not, how does it work?

I know we get vitamin D from exposure to the sun. Does the light do that, too? And where can I find one? A medical supply store? Thanks for your reply. — E from Buffalo, New York

Dear E: SAD lights are fantastic — and with today’s LED technology they are inexpensive, small, easily transportable and cool. The old-fashioned lights were point-sourced, very hot and cost more than $300. Today, you can buy one for less than $50 online.

They don’t work through the skin, they work through the eyes. You set them at your side, about an arm’s length away, so they shine on you while you’re looking at something else. I use them in the morning — it’s my sidekick when I’m answering my emails or writing.

Make sure you buy one that shines 10,000 lumens, a measure of intensity, and make sure it has a timer. Use it about 20 to 30 minutes a day, and you’re off. As for vitamin D, the light doesn’t generate that in your body. You’ll need a supplement for that — 2,000 IUs (International Units) is what I recommend.

Dear Dr. Z: I am a longtime reader and listener. I recently read your column about itchy skin. I don’t have a question — I’d just like to share that I enjoy your column immensely and get extra pleasure when I get to hear you on NPR, too! I appreciate your kind, supportive tone — and, of course, all the excellent health suggestions!

Thank you for the great gift of your communicating style and overall presence that you give to all of us! Warmly — S.R. McKay, Spokane, Washington

Dear S.R.: Thank you so much for your kind words. I really do appreciate them. I write the column and do my National Public Radio show to teach about health and to empower people to ask their health care provider and to question them — not just to be passive when it comes to wellness but to take action.

The problem with modern medicine is that it’s cloaked in a lingo many don’t understand. We call a heart attack a myocardial infarction. We call a stroke a CVA. And so on. It’s not that the scientific words are wrong — they’re not — they’re just too much “shop talk” when we health care professionals should be talking in regular words.

My goal in the NPR show and this column is to speak simply — not dumbed-down, but just using a language we can all understand. “Lingua franca” is the term for it, although that’s not a common term. We doctors talk in complicated terms all too often. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dear Doc: I just wanted to comment on your article regarding how paying cash for drugs may be cheaper. My husband uses epinephrine (two-pack) for bee stings. Before we went on vacation in July, I needed to get a refill. When the prescription was placed, his Medicare Part D coverage for mail order was $308, which was basically the deductible.

I checked GoodRx.com online and it provided a price of $105 at Walgreens. The next day I confirmed with the pharmacy that this price was good. The pharmacist said yes, plus there was a $50 coupon.

I immediately drove to the doctor’s office and had them send a prescription to Walgreens. When I got home, I called the mail-order pharmacy and canceled the order before it mailed. I went to Walgreens and paid $55 cash. Perfect example! — Rose Pelz

Dear Rose: Good pick up. It’s always buyer beware. The fact that the many pharmacies do not tell you how to get drugs cheaper is an abomination.

There are laws in some states against pharmacies doing this unless you ask them. There is no transparency in drug prices because there are too many hands in the pot.

My go-to site is Goodrx.com. You might just get those meds cheaper. Stay well.

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