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Dr. Zorba Paster: Elusive cause of autism and prescription price woes

Dear Doc: I am a retired biologist and professor, and love reading anything medical or scientific. I just read a rogue article speculating about the causes of autism – from DDT insecticide, to fertilizer organophosphates, to mercury and byproducts of plastics, it seems like nearly anything might cause this devastating problem. What’s your take?

And by the way, thanks for keeping us educated and up to date on a host of issues.

– L.L. from Jacksonville, Fla.

Dear Readers: Autism is the bugaboo that is so elusive. It’s clear we’re picking up more cases because we’re looking for it, but it’s also clear there are simply more cases than ever before.

With so little known and so much suffering, it’s no surprise so many websites are devoted to autism. Some have “skin in the game.” Those are sites that sell dubious products “guaranteed” to work. Others are just good-hearted souls trying to solve the enigma.

It’s clear to me this is a murky issue. Thus, anyone who is touched by this disease should be cautious. There’s a lot of information – and misinformation – out there.

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Dr. Zorba: Just read your findings on the prescription drug QVAR jumping in price and the fact you had a hard time finding a lower-cost equivalent. My spouse used QVAR until the cost went through the roof, so her choice – not her doctor’s – was to stop getting it. Could you tell me what equivalent you found so she can tell her doctor and start getting it again? Thanks.

Bill from Spokane, Wash.

Dear Bill: Insurance companies contract with drug companies to negotiate the best prices. The more they buy – of all drugs a company produces – the higher the discount.

QVAR is a steroid inhaler used principally for asthma. There are at least four others on the market that are equally good. QVAR is made by Teva, while Flovent, an equally good medication, is made by GSK.

When your wife found out the QVAR price jumped, she should have asked her pharmacist for an equivalent or similar drug that would be covered by her insurance.

As I explained in my “What’s the best price I can get for my drug?” series, that information is not always readily available. If your pharmacist can’t give you the answer, then call your insurance company and they will.

And to show you how difficult this can be, read the comment below.

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Doc: I’m backing up your claim of “no prescription/no price.” I took my prescription to the local Rite Aid requesting a price, but was told they’d have to fill it before they could give me a price. You’re right – it’s a screwed up system.

Frank S.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a physician, professor, author and broadcast journalist. He hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Sundays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at zorba@wpr.org.