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Ask Dr. Gott 11/01

'Kickbacks' not necessarily unethical

DEAR DR. GOTT: Some friends and I are having a discussion about doctors who get kickbacks on prescription medicine. I feel they would be putting their licenses on the line. What do you have to say about this? Do you think a reputable doctor would do this?
    DEAR READER: My answer depends on how you define "kickbacks."
    Most doctors are visited regularly by pharmaceutical representatives who are more than willing to supply the physician with free samples of the drugs the company manufactures. These samples are often turned over by the doctor to patients who can't afford the drug. I wouldn't call that a kickback.
    Another example: Physicians are often hired by drug companies to partake in continuing medical-education programs for which they are paid. Again, I see nothing inappropriate in such a relation.
    In my experience, a kickback is money or perks that are given to a physician who agrees to prescribe the drug company's products. Such activity could be termed a kickback, especially if the perk happens to be a weekend in the Bahamas or a paid skiing vacation in Aspen. However, I don't know any doctors in my area of practice who buy into this behavior. Even if they did, I doubt they would lose their licenses. Perhaps a warning from the county medical society would suffice.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I've got questions on a couple of different subjects and would appreciate it if you would address both issues in your column.
    My husband is a hoarder. He buys groceries in quantity and believes you can freeze almost anything. He has really impressed me with the grocery items that he has frozen, and, to my surprise, the food seems to keep and tastes OK. One thing that he freezes is milk. When it's on sale at the grocery, he will buy up to 4 gallons at a time and freeze it. After it has thawed, it tastes just fine. My question is this, does freezing and thawing milk cause it to lose its nutritional value? We always buy 2 percent milk.
    My second question is about cold sores. I never get one small blister. I break out with a cluster of blisters, three or more. My primary physician put me on a medicine once that I took for a period of one year in hopes that it would keep the sores at bay. It kept them at bay for more than three years, but recently, a cluster of sores appeared. I have heard that taking lysine will keep them from breaking out. However, I'm not certain if lysine should be taken daily.
    DEAR READER: Freezing milk will not diminish its nutritional value, and the process is safe. Look, for example, at ice cream.
    Cold sores are caused by a virus. Many readers have treated cold sores successfully (in their initial phases) with lysine, which is available in pharmacies and health-food stores and can be taken daily when needed.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Vitamins and Minerals."

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