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Cook’s Pharmacy offers free vitamins

Frank Lombardo, of Cooks Pharmacy in Shavertown, has been giving away free vitamins since the beginning of the summer.

Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader

SHAVERTOWN — Frank Lombardo is one area business man who is proud and thankful to be successful in this time of economic hardship. Despite a changing market, increased competition and a rise in the cost of operations, his Cook’s Pharmacy in Shavertown has prospered over the past 25 years. He now looks to share some of his success with a free vitamin prescription program.

“We have done well,” Lombardo says, “and this is one small way that we can say thank you to the community.” Any area resident age 12 years or older can visit his pharmacy and sign up for a free monthly prescription of multi-vitamins. The dosage is comparable to a standard “one-a-day” vitamin and is made available free.

Lombardo holds to the position that the medical industry as a whole over-emphasizes the treatment of illness as opposed to prevention. He sees vitamins as an effective component of a healthy diet that can be both physically and economically rewarding. The average diet may not provide all of the necessary nutrients to ensure overall health. A supplemental dosage of vitamins can have the desired effect of supplying essential nutrition and strengthening the immune system. This could then result in less money paid to doctors and insurance companies.

It is easy and cost effective to take a vitamin each day, but Lombardo seeks to make it even simpler for area residents to maintain their health. “There’s no excuse” Lombardo says. “It’s easy and it’s free.”

Although this program has been in effect since the beginning of the summer, he sees now as a key time due to the struggling economy and the onset of the cold and flu season.

Adam Welch, assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice at Wilkes University, agrees with Lombardo on the overall benefit that vitamins can provide. Welch also noted that vitamins alone cannot prevent illness and can potentially be harmful. “Vitamins are never meant to replace any part of the diet but they can help your immune system. Bear in mind though that some can interfere with certain types of medication,” he said.

This is why Lombardo highlights the professional and communal touch of having the prescription filled at his pharmacy. All subscriber records are kept in a database and can be easily compared to existing health records to protect against any potentially harmful conflict. It is also why the program excludes children younger than the age of 12. In doing so Lombardo is hoping to avoid the interference with medications pointed out by Welch.

Another important factor Lombardo identifies in the need for daily vitamin intake is that the common meal may be of a lesser nutritional quality today than in the past. Studies published in 2006 in the San Francisco Chronicle and in the Seattle Public Inquirer suggest that the soil in the United States and abroad often contains fewer nutrients than it did up to 50 years ago.

Both reports draw mainly upon the work of David R. Davis. The research associate for the Biochemical Institute of the University of Texas at Austin has compared government recorded soil samples from 1950 and 1999. Findings have shown a substantial decrease in a variety of vitamins from 13 of the most popularly grown fruits and vegetables. His work also indicates that modern fertilization practices meant to produce larger plant varieties in shorter growing times can obstruct the development of Vitamin C within a plant. Vitamin supplements can play an effective role in compensating for some of the nutritional loss.

Lombardo knows that most people have no more control over changes like these than they do over the common germs that are being passed through the air. He says he’s established the vitamin giveaway as one area where he can lend a helping hand.

“We are looking to support the Greater Back Mountain and Wyoming Valley area,” he says of his pharmacy. “Since this is something we can afford to do, this is something we are going to do.”

Cook’s Pharmacy has filled more than 80 free vitamin subscriptions in September and anticipates filling more than 100 this month. Lombardo has no plans of ever stopping the program. He is in fact looking to lower the age of eligibility so that children can benefit from the program as well.

The development of healthy habits occurs in childhood. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle among children and young adults, Lombardo hopes, will prove to be the ultimate form of illness prevention.

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