Articles of interest

4th graders and AlmaVia residentsKids Reach Out to Darfur

So far students have purchased 206 goats which are loaned to families in Darfur, Sudan. The goats serve as a much needed source of vitamins and proteins, and a way to keep families out of camps and in their own villages.

Students are now reaching out to attract other ambassadors for the "Kids for Kids" program, which seeks to improve the lives of children in one of the harshest environments in the world. Pictured below are the students (l-r) Lauren Gomez, Nadia Nasrah, Georgina Stiegeler, Nathaniel Nathenson, Emily Pineda, Caroline Macguire and Makayla Swanson (who led the efforts at St. Gabriel School). Seated in the center are two former parishioners of St. Gabriel, Mario Conti and Josephine Sommerville,who were among an enthusiastic group of residents who pledged to support the project.

Fourth graders of St. Gabriel's School took their campaign to end world poverty to AlmaVia of San Francisco, an assisted living community on Brotherhood Way, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy and the Lutheran Church.



Your Medicare Drug Plan

By Grace-Marie Turner

The holidays are here again. That means it’s time for decorations, gifts, family, friends, and food. But during all the celebrating, seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D should carve out time to consider whether they want to stay with their current prescription drug plan.

At the end of each year, from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, Medicare Part D provides seniors with an open enrollment period, an easy and convenient way to switch plans -- or sign up for the first time.
Thanks to the plan’s unique design, seniors can choose from a variety of plans offered by private insurers. Unlike traditional government programs, where there’s just one plan for everyone, Medicare Part D is structured so that insurance companies must compete for customers. Consequently, prices have stayed relatively low while coverage options have flourished.

In fact, some plans cost just a few dollars a month.

That’s why more seniors than ever before have prescription drug coverage. This past year, Medicare Part D provided benefits to almost 24 million people.
Meanwhile, polls have indicated that most seniors are happy with their coverage. This isn’t to say the program has no pitfalls.

Many plans don’t cover every brand-name drug, so members might have to take a generic medication instead of the brand they were using prior to signing up for Part D. Furthermore, for brand-name drugs that still are under patent protection, a generic version won’t even exist. To access these treatments, members might have to pay more out of their own pocket. Or they might have no choice but to take an alternative drug.

So be sure to go over the options carefully, as different plans cover different drugs. And the drugs covered by each plan may change from year to year.



How to Buy Your Meds Online — Safely


Buying drugs online has never been easier

By Byron A. Liang, M.D.


Today, there are thousands of websites offering brand-name medications like Lipitor and Viagra at a fraction of what they cost at your local drugstore. Many even sell drugs without asking for a prescription. Some offer “in-house” doctors that will both diagnose you and prescribe medications over the internet, saving you the hassle of going to your physician and then the drugstore.

If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Hunting online for bargains makes sense, but it can be incredibly dangerous. It is often difficult -- if not outright impossible -- to tell whether or not drugs purchased online are authentic. That’s a risk that can be deadly.

According to the World Health Organization, about 10 percent of globally traded drugs are fakes. In some countries, according to the Food and Drug Administration, more than half of all drugs are fake.
Counterfeiting networks use high-tech graphics and fraudulent serial numbers to mimic brand-name drugs. Smugglers bribe officials to move drugs across borders and set up phony mailing addresses to ship products over the internet. Many open and close several websites each day to sell their stock of phony drugs, make a profit, and move on without a trace.

Most counterfeits originate in Asia and Latin America where regulations are poorly enforced. Penalties for counterfeiting in these regions are slight compared to the profits criminals can reap. Some experts have estimated that counterfeit sales will total $75 billion worldwide by 2010.

Purchasing drugs closer to home is hardly any safer. Many Canadian pharmacies obtain their drugs from European wholesalers. And because pharmaceuticals move freely among the 27 EU members, drugs purchased from England or Germany could have easily originated in Romania or the Czech Republic, where safety regulations are poor.

Earlier this year, a Canadian named Marcia Bergeron purchased counterfeit Xanax and Ambien from what she thought was an online Canadian pharmacy.

After taking the pills, she died. Authorities discovered that Bergeron’s pills contained aluminum, tin, and even arsenic -- common “filler” in counterfeits.

They traced the purchase to a website in the Czech Republic and the pills to a plant in Southeast Asia.
With more websites selling counterfeit medicines, it’s more important than ever to follow a few simple guidelines when purchasing drugs online.

First, never purchase prescription medication from a website that does not require you to mail in a prescription. Moreover, legitimate e-pharmacies should always have an easy way for you to contact a certified pharmacist for medical consultation.

Avoid sites that do not display a physical U.S. street address and a toll-free phone number. Also, avoid websites selling only “lifestyle” medications for conditions like obesity and impotence.
Finally, you can search for “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites” by going to This website was created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to identify online pharmacies that are safe and appropriately licensed.

The VIPPS team reviews the policies and practices of internet pharmacies and performs on-site inspections of each pharmacy’s facilities. Those that are up to code display the blue VIPPS seal.
Shopping for medicine online can be a great way to save money. But do it safely.
Bryan A. Liang, MD, is VP of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.