There’s a myth floating around about pharmacies “re-selling” medicine. Some have a notion that people bring back medicine they no longer want, and the pharmacy then restocks it for eventual sale to another customer. Not happening. This is a violation of the rules regulating the practice of pharmacy. A pharmacy is responsible for ensuring that the medicine it sells to consumers is safe and effective. There is no way a pharmacy can assure the medicine hasn’t been tampered with or damaged in some way once it leaves the pharmacy. So, rest assured, you are not getting someone else’s used pills. If it does happen, somebody should go to jail.

Q: My girlfriend wants me to switch to Yasmin oral contraceptives. She says they help women lose weight.

A: Yasmin oral contraceptives began flying off shelves as soon as the talk started that it helps women lose weight. In one year, sales of Yasmin nearly tripled.   Health centers at colleges and universities reported that many students began coming in and asking for this pill by name.   Yasmin contains a unique progestin called drospirenone that works like a potassium-sparing diuretic. Some women taking Yasmin have modest weight loss due to fluid reduction.    

But Yasmin does not reduce body mass or fat. Any weight loss from fluid reduction is only temporary. Normal weight usually returns within a year of starting Yasmin. As to that other rumor that birth control pills cause women to gain weight. Not true. Women who take oral contraceptives usually don't gain any more weight than women who don't take them. High estrogen level in the first half of the menstrual cycle can cause fluid retention and modest weight gain in some women, but this usually goes away in the last half of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are lower.

Q: I have been using a lot of laxatives lately to deal with constipation. My friends say that while it provides temporary relief, it could be harmful. Is it?

A: Many health care providers advise patients not to use stimulant laxatives long-term. The belief is that chronic use can decrease normal colon function through detrimental effects on enteric nerve and smooth muscle. Other concerns include increased risk of cancer, tolerance, and addiction or abuse.    

But experts are now questioning if these concerns are just myths.    

The claim that chronic use of stimulant laxatives causes enteric nerve damage is not well-documented. Some studies involved patients who used laxatives for longer than ten years at 18 times the recommended doses. There's no proof that stimulant laxatives at normal doses harm the colon. An increased risk of cancer has not been proven.   Abuse of stimulant laxatives is not a concern in people who use them for constipation. It is more likely to be an issue for people who use laxatives to lose weight. The best treatment for constipation is to avoid it. Eat a diet rich in grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly.

Q: My girlfriend is after me to quit smoking, and I really, really want to do it. I’ve tried all kinds of things. I’m thinking of going with those nicotine replacement products. But I hear they don’t work.

A: A number of people are questioning whether using nicotine replacement products, such as patches and gum, really help people to stop smoking. This stems from hyped up news reports of a study showing they aren't effective for the majority of patients using them. It's true that many patients fail to stop smoking even when using nicotine replacement products. But more often than not, it's due to inappropriate use, not because nicotine replacement is ineffective. Patients who buy the over-the-counter smoking cessation products often don't use them consistently and don't get needed counseling from a health professional.

There's plenty of evidence that patients who use nicotine replacement products correctly, successfully quit smoking about a quarter of the time. Nicotine gum, patches nasal spray or inhalers are all equally effective. You can also uses combinations, such as gum for treating sudden urges. Do not smoke while using these products. And if you fail for some reason, wait a minute and try again. Lots of non-smokers failed on the first try, but they all say it was one of the best things they ever did.

Do you have questions about your medication, concerns about a friend’s or relative’s prescription or just want to keep up with the latest developments. In that case, ask syndicated columnist Dr. Daphne Bernard, a doctor of pharmacy and a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is assistant dean and associate professor at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Pharmacists Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Please email her at [email protected].