July 9, 2015

Doctors Often Not Knowledgeable about Zinc

When I went to the pharmacy for a prescription, I saw the pharmacist trying to make sense of a prescription. She reached for the telephone and I could see her dialing. She asked for the doctor and then she asked why the prescription. I don't know what was said from there, but I could see the pharmacist discussing this with the person on the phone.

When she was done, she came back to the person that the prescription was for and asked if she really needed it. The person said she was low and that the doctor had tested her and wrote the prescription. I could hear the pharmacist tell the person that the prescription was for too large a dosage of zinc. I had just read this article and the pharmacist could see me cringe.

When she had finished giving the person the prescription and accepting the copay, I was next. I asked the pharmacist if she had the internet on the computers. She said she did and I asked her to open Eureka Alert and when she said it was up, I asked her to type zinc in the search box. She did and said there were many selections. I asked her if they had a search by date at the bottom and when she said yes, I said to click on that. Next, I asked her what the top article was. It was this article and I had her open it and suggested that she read it.

The pharmacist said she did not need to as she was aware of the problem and it was described quite well. I said that is why you saw me cringe. I said that the person would probably be back with a copper deficiency as well as anemia. The pharmacist agreed and since I had my prescription, I said yet doctors insist on over prescribing trace minerals because they don't know better. The pharmacist would not say any more, so I left.

A small audit of clinical practice, published online in the Journal of Clinical Pathology says, too much zinc, taken in the form of dietary supplements, may disrupt copper uptake, leading to neurological problems and anemia. While this happened in Great Britain, my discussion above indicates many doctors here make the same mistakes.

Zinc is an essential trace element that is required in daily quantities of 5.5 to 9.5 mg for men and 4 to 7 mg for women. But zinc supplements are usually only available in formulations of 45 or 50 mg. The US recommended tolerable limit is 40 mg/day. While there is no evidence to suggest that taking zinc supplements in the short term is harmful, this may not be the case for longer-term use, say the researchers.

These findings by the researchers underline the lack of awareness of zinc induced copper deficiency,' who caution, 'zinc is an essential trace element, and so clinicians may consider it a safe nutrient rather than a drug carrying potential risk.

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