DCA is Here to Help All Year Long

Just because National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) has ended doesn’t mean you aren’t protected. As #NCPW2017 wraps up, DCA wants to remind consumers that our resources and programs are available any time of year. This past week, we’ve shared details on many of them.

An informed consumer is a protected consumer: consider yourself empowered! Learn more at www.dca.ca.gov.

Also, see our complete list of free publications at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/publications_list.shtml, subscribe to our award-winning magazine, Consumer Connection, and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @DCAnews.

Weighing Out Diet Scams

weight-lossThe first month of 2017 is almost history, but a few of the resolutions you may have put on the list for this year may still not be crossed off—or started, for that matter. Getting more organized and saving money are goals that are easy to plan, while losing weight—a resolution that is at the top of many people’s lists—is one of the hardest to start.

Losing weight is a healthy and rewarding goal, however, beware of quick-fix weight-loss products and plans. Like other scams, if they sound too good to be true, they probably are.

At best, “miracle” weight-loss products won’t help at all and will only cause you to lose money. At worst, they can cause health issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that hundreds of dietary supplement products contain hidden active ingredients that may be advertised as “natural” and “safe.” As a result, the FDA has received numerous reports of increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, stroke, seizure, and even death as a result of taking these supplements.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), beware of weight-loss ads with tag lines like these:

  • Lose weight without diet or exercise!
  • Lose weight no matter how much you eat of your favorite foods!
  • Lose weight permanently! Never diet again!
  • Just take a pill!
  • Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!
  • Everybody will lose weight!
  • Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream!

The FTC says the best way to lose weight is to cut about 500 calories per day, eat a variety of healthy foods, and exercise regularly. Also, before beginning any weight-loss plan, consult your healthcare professional. To check the status of a doctor’s license, visit the Medical Board of California website at www.mbc.ca.gov.

Male Contraception Study Cut Short

syringeA male contraception study, cosponsored by the United Nations and commissioned by the World Health Organization, was recently stopped after it was concluded that the drug caused too many side effects.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, tested the safety and effectiveness of a contraceptive shot that was administered every eight weeks to 320 healthy men in different countries around the world. The trial was initially considered successful after it significantly decreased sperm counts. However, after Stage II of the three-stage trial, a number of men dropped out of the study, citing side effects such as acne, mood swings, depression, muscle pain, and increased libido. Researchers decided to stop the trial early in the interest of patient safety. A survey of patients who didn’t drop out found that most would use the product if it were available.

The premature halt of the study has caused some experts to draw comparisons with the side effects experienced by those women who use female birth control. It has also caused some raised eyebrows from women, who have been dealing with the side effects of FDA-approved birth control methods for decades. To learn more about contraception options and their possible side effects, women should talk to a qualified health care professional. (You can check the license of a doctor at the Medical Board’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov or a pharmacist at the Board of Pharmacy’s website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov.)

Despite the sudden halt to the male contraception study, there are still plans to successfully bring a male contraceptive drug to the market. According to an NPR report, future trials with different, safer levels of hormones, as well as possibly alternative ways to administer the drug, such as via a gel or an implant, are in the works.

 

 

Fight the Resistance! Get Smart About Antibiotics Week: November 14–20

get-smart-about-antibiotics-weekHere’s a quick quiz: Do antibiotics fight bacteria, viruses, or both? Which illnesses should be treated with antibiotics: strep throat, whopping cough, bronchitis? Bacteria are germs that cause colds and flu—true or false?

You can find the answers to these questions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website; the CDC’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is November 14–20. The week’s activities are about raising awareness of the enormous and growing threat of antibiotic resistance and how we—patients and healthcare providers—can all fight the resistance.

After decades of misuse and overuse, antibiotics are no longer as effective as they once were. The Board of Pharmacy (Board) states, “This is a big problem, and is a major public health threat within hospitals and communities—wherever antibiotics are used.”

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According to the Board, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against drug resistance and to stop its spread is to not insist on getting antibiotics when your doctor doesn’t prescribe them. Also, don’t save antibiotics from a previous illness. When you’re prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as directed. And never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Take preventative steps as well, such as keeping up with your vaccinations, washing your hands, and effectively managing symptoms to feel better versus taking antibiotics.

For more information on Getting Smart About Antibiotics Week, go to the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/getsmart and the Board’s website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov.

 

It’s Not Just About Generics: Saving Money on Prescription Drugs

shutterstock_385954984The generic version of a two-pack of EpiPen is now priced at $300—a price that’s better than the brand-name cost of $600 for this widely used allergic-reaction antidote. Buying the generic versus the brand-name is definitely the first step in saving money on your meds, but what else can you do to combat rising drug prices?

You may have more control over what you pay for drugs than you think. According to a January 2016 article by Consumer Reports, prices from retailers, especially large retailers like chain drugstores and big-box stores, can vary greatly. Shop around because drug prices can cost as much as 10 times more from one retailer to the next. Also, don’t avoid independent drugstores—they may actually have more flexibility to beat their competitor’s prices.

Surprisingly, drug prices are negotiable, so ask for a lower price—even with generics. Check sites such as GoodRx.com to do some comparison shopping and to also find out the fair market price. The website also gives you information about coupons, discounts, and how to save money at nearby pharmacies.

Be sure to ask your doctor to help you find a lower-cost alternative and have he or she give you a prescription for a 90-day supply versus 30 days, which can save you money as well. A 90-day supply allows you to pay one copay for 90 days instead of one for every 30, plus it saves you extra trips to the pharmacy.

This next tip may sound counterintuitive, but may be worth checking out. You may not want to always use your insurance to pay for your prescription drugs; you may get a better price if you pay out of pocket and if you sign up for a pharmacy’s discount plan (but read the fine print to understand all terms and conditions).

Check online for lower prices—with caution. Be very careful about which online pharmacy you choose—there’s plenty of fraud out there. Only do business with online pharmacies that display the VIPPS symbol—that indicates it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. Remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some drug companies and foundations offer financial assistance programs. Check Needymeds.org, a national nonprofit information resource that can help you locate assistance programs so you can afford your medications and other healthcare costs.

To learn more about how to save money when buying prescription drugs and for resources for medication discounts, visit the State Board of Pharmacy’s website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov.

Get it While it’s Hot: Check out the Summer Issue of Consumer Connection

Summer’s not over yet. There’s still time to take a road trip to one of California’s manyConsumer connection summer 2016 state parks. From beaches and deserts to redwood forests and mountain summits, California parks offer a variety of amazing and beautiful sites to explore. The Consumer Connection article “Time for a Road Trip!” details 10 state parks—including Angel Island, Marshall Gold Discovery, Humboldt Redwoods, and Crystal Cove—to consider for your next destination, and ways to make sure your car is as ready for the trip as you are.

Also inside this issue is an article about the recently enacted California End of Life Option Act. The new law provides legal guidelines on how terminally ill adults can choose to die in a humane and dignified manner.

Readers will also find features about the recent trend of more Americans choosing to rent instead of buying a home, dealing with the repo man, the dangers of DIY braces, wills versus living trusts, the dangers of buying from a rogue online pharmacy, and more.

To download or read DCA’s award-winning Consumer Connection magazine, visit the DCA website. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have a copy mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

 

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Natl Immunization Awareness MonthShots aren’t just for kids—adults need them, too. Although the recent new State law, which went into effect July 1, highlights the importance of childhood shots, vaccines are vital for all ages. This is an important message from the National Immunization Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC).

Everyone should be vaccinated; the immunizations not only prevent you from getting sick, but it protects others as well by preventing the spread of illnesses. Adults should receive a flu vaccine each year, and vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, and measles as recommended. A tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years. Adults 60 years of age and older should receive the shingles vaccine, and those 65 and older should receive one or more pneumococcal vaccine. Some adults may need vaccines to protect against hepatitis A and B, depending on their age, travel plans, and medical conditions.

There are vaccinations for different ages and health conditions, such as for pregnant women, babies and young kids, preteens and teens, and school-age children.

National Immunization Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to check if you’re up to date on your shots, as well as to remind others—friends, family, co-workers—about getting vaccinated. Have your doctor assess your vaccination needs (for information on how to find a doctor or if you need to verify a license, visit the Medical Board of California’s website, www.mbc.ca.gov). Your local pharmacist may also be qualified to administer  vaccinations. Visit the Board of Pharmacy website (www.pharmacy.ca.gov) to learn more and to verify a license.

For more information about vaccinations and National Immunization Awareness Month, visit the NPHIC website at https://www.nphic.org/niam.

Effective July: CA New Laws 2016

vaccinesGovernor Brown signed 807 new State laws for 2016. Many laws—including the increase in the minimum wage from $9 to $10 per hour, the mandate that 50 percent of the State’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, and the prohibition of the sale of e-cigarettes to minors—went into effect on January 1.

Some laws, however, begin with the new fiscal year. Below are a few of the new laws that went into effect on July 1.

Vaccination requirements: One of the most controversial bills this year, Senate Bill 277 (Pan) requires that, unless there is an underlying medical reason, parents must vaccinate their children in order for the children to be able to attend school.

Ivory ban/rhinoceros horn ban: Assembly Bill 96 (Atkins) bans the import, selling, and possession of ivory. The prohibition is enforceable by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is authorized to impose a penalty of up to $10,000 for the violation.

DMV proof of residency requirement: AB 1465 (Gordon) requires applicants for an original California driver’s license or identification card to submit proof of California residency to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

BPPE exam reviews: Under SB 752 (Salas), the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) will review the list of exams prescribed by the U.S. Department of Education. BPPE must approve an alternative exam for those with limited English proficiency or without a high school diploma or equivalent if it determines there is no appropriate exam for these students.

Disability payment change: SB 667 (Jackson) extends the disability benefit period from 14 to 60 days. Under this new law, fewer claimants with ongoing or recurring conditions will have to complete a new waiting period for each absence at work.

Wage garnishment protection: Under SB 501 (Wieckowski), the garnishment rate goes from a flat 25 percent of one’s wages to a sliding scale that depends on your income. The law does not apply to child support and government debt.

For more information about these laws or to find out about other new laws that took just effect, go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/NewLaws.html.

 

 

Pharmacists Can Help You Quit Smoking

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It just got a lot easier to kick the nicotine habit now that products to help you quit smoking are available from your local pharmacy without a prescription.

“Quitting smoking is difficult to do, but important to patient health. Pharmacists can now offer greater assistance to individuals who have decided to quit smoking,” said Virginia Herold, California State Board of Pharmacy executive officer.

Board of Pharmacy regulations went into effect in late January that allow pharmacists to furnish smoking cessation products without a prescription.  Before they can provide the products, pharmacists are required to complete two hours of approved continuing education on nicotine replacement therapy and must then receive ongoing training.

Before dispensing, your pharmacist must ask questions to determine if nicotine replacement products are safe for you. Your pharmacist will ask about your current tobacco use and attempts to quit; if you’ve suffered a recent heart attack; if you have a history of heart problems; if you have frequent chest pain or unstable angina; or if you have nasal allergies or have been diagnosed with temporal mandibular joint (TMJ). Women will be asked if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

A pharmacist will use his or her professional judgment and the responses to your questions to determine whether to furnish the products or refer you to a health care professional.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 nearly 17 out of every 100 Americans – or 40 million people – smoked cigarettes. The CDC says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 in the U.S. every year and is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Along with those deaths, more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases. Quitting smoking is an important step to improving your health and life expectancy.

Pharmacists received authority to provide nicotine replacement products with the passage of SB 493 (Hernandez). The Board of Pharmacy and Medical Board of California then developed protocols for pharmacists to follow. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can work with you to help you kick the smoking habit and start on a path to better health.

Click here to view the regulation: http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/laws_regs/1746_2_ooa.pdf.

 

 

New Year, New Laws

The New Year brings with it new laws that will impact most all Californians. One of the most significant new laws on the medical front involves prescription drugs. Assembly Bill 1073 requires California pharmacists to provide translations of prescription instructions in the most common languages other than English. They include:  Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Korean.

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Assembly Bill 1073 will benefit residents in California with limited proficiency in English and help them to gain better healthcare access and information. California will now join New York as the only other state in the nation to require pharmacists to provide non-English medication information.

Here are some additional laws that will affect consumers.

  • SB254-Mattress Recycling: California and Connecticut are the only states in the nation that currently offer a recycling program for used mattresses and box springs. Residents can find their nearest participating collection site or recycling facility by visiting www.byebyemattress.com.
  • B604–Hoverboard Law: There’s a law for that shiny, new Hoverboard you got for Christmas. For starters, you must be at least 16 years old to ride it. Wearing a helmet is also required while operating the Hoverboard on highways, bikeways, or other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trails.
  • SB675—Hospital Patient Discharges—This law enables hospitals to take specified actions relating to family caregivers, including, among others, notifying the family caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility. They also must provide information and counseling regarding the post-hospital care needs of the patient, but only if the patient has consented to the disclosure of this information.
  •  SB277—Child Vaccinations—This new State law requires that schoolchildren must be fully vaccinated to attend public or private school, regardless of their parents’ personal or religious beliefs. Parents can no longer demand “personal belief exemptions” from immunization after Jan. 1.
  • SB270—Grocery Store Bags–Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out at checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. However, it does allow grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
  •  AB10–Minimum Wage Law– California’s minimum wage went up from $9 to $10-an-hour. State lawmakers passed the minimum wage increase in 2013, raising it to $9 in July 2014 and $10 beginning January 1, 2016.