Over-the-counter Tagamet hasn't met all requirements

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

October 18, 1994|By Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

Q: My wife and I have had an argument for over a year about the pill called Tagamet, which we both take. She claims Tagamet will become available at all drugstores without prescription some time this year.

While she hardly reads anything and I read everything, I have never heard of such a thing. A bet on a trip to Europe hinges on your answer. Of course, both of us expect to win, but needless to say, if I lose I will never hear the end of it.

A: For somebody who doesn't read much, your wife is quite well-informed. She may have made an error in betting on the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly.

The company that makes Tagamet (cimetidine) has applied to the FDA for permission to sell it over the counter as Tagamet HB. The first request was denied because of questions about dose and effectiveness. The second request last July met with success on the dosage issue, but new questions were raised about the possibility of interactions with other drugs. Experts were especially worried that Tagamet might boost levels of the asthma medicine theophylline.

It is likely that Tagamet HB will someday be approved for over-the-counter sale, but there's no telling when the tests will be completed and the FDA will give it the green light.

Q: I worry about the many dangerous and deadly diseases that can be transmitted by various body fluids. It certainly is justified that health care professionals protect themselves by wearing rubber gloves while performing their duties. I am not sure they show the same consideration for patients.

On numerous occasions I have witnessed nurses in hospitals and blood banks and technicians in medical laboratories connect IVs or draw blood and go from patient to patient wearing the same pair of gloves. Isn't this a hazardous practice that may transmit disease from one patient to another or am I unduly concerned?

A: We checked and were informed that you are right. Dentists, nurses and other professionals who handle blood or other body fluids MUST change gloves between patients.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

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