Some medicines reduce effect of birth-control pills

People's Pharmacy

October 10, 1995|By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON | JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When I read your column about the woman who got pregnant on birth-control pills, I was gratified to see that this had happened to someone else besides me.

I had been on birth-control pills for five years and went to my dentist for tooth pain. He gave me penicillin VK for two weeks.

After I had finished the antibiotic, a friend told me I should take a pregnancy test. It came back positive, even though I had taken my pill regularly. I was devastated. My husband and I hadn't planned to have any more kids.

I later found out that penicillin can lower the effectiveness of the pill, but neither the dentist nor the pharmacist warned me about this. We have decided to take legal action, because they both knew I was on the pill.

Certain antibiotics (especially penicillin) have been reported to lower effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Your physician, pharmacist and dentist should have alerted you.

We believe women deserve a clear warning about such drug interactions, since an unintended pregnancy can have profound consequences. Other compounds that lower oral contraceptive levels include some anti-epileptic drugs, tuberculosis medicines, antifungal remedies and tension headache medications.

I am on a limited income, and once I have paid for my medicine there is very little money left for life's other needs. My doctor said he would call the manufacturers about free medicines if he knew the right number.

I take Zantac, TheoDur, prednisone, verapamil, glipizide, AeroBid and Serevent. Is there any way to economize on these?

Your doctor can assist you by contacting the manufacturers of your medicines and letting them know the cost constitutes a hardship for you. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association will send him a 1995 directory with the information on drug company patient assistance programs if he calls (800) PMA-INFO. This will allow him to contact each company and request free medicine for you.

We are sending you our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine, which offers additional details. Anyone else who would like a free copy, please send a long (No. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, Dept. Z, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

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

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