People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

December 09, 2005

I read in your column that Sonata might be a good solution for early morning wakening because it lasts only a few hours. Have you any idea of its cost? I was charged around $100 for a couple of dozen pills. What a rip-off! I find cutting a Tylenol PM in half just as effective.

Diphenhydramine (the "PM" in Tylenol PM and other nighttime pain relievers) is certainly cheaper than the sleeping pill Sonata. Taken in the middle of the night, though, even a lower dose could cause morning grogginess and make driving dangerous.

I am a retired doctor with type 2 diabetes. Metformin has kept my blood sugar in the normal range for 10 years. Despite good control, my foot numbness was getting worse. I was also a little unsteady on my feet.

In reviewing the medical literature, I discovered that metformin interferes with vitamin B-12. I suspected I might be deficient in this nutrient, so I started oral vitamin B-12.

Within a week, I noticed a sharpening of my mental capacity. I stopped having any trouble walking, and my foot numbness has decreased. Many older diabetics take metformin, and their subtle neurologic and mental deficits may be overlooked but could be treated.

Thank you for pointing out that metformin (Glucophage) can deplete the body of vitamin B-12. This can lead to serious neurological symptoms if not corrected promptly.

I take the anticoagulant Coumadin, and I have read that drinking cranberry juice might increase my risk of bleeding. Would that hold for cranberry sauce as well? I love it.

There is still no consensus that cranberries interact with warfarin (Coumadin), but British health authorities have issued a warning about this combination. It is likely to apply to cranberries and cranberry sauce as well as juice.

A small taste might not hurt, but we would discourage you from overdoing it. The consequence could be a dangerous bleeding episode.

My 3-year-old son continues to have problems with ear infections, even though he got ear tubes when he was 8 months old. He now has another infection, with chest congestion and a cough.

I was looking for home remedies for coughs when I found your Web site. I read about putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet. Within 10 minutes of applying it, he was asleep without a cough. Thanks!

We can't explain how smearing Vicks on the soles of the feet could take away a cough, but many others have told us it works. We recommend socks to protect the sheets.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site: peoplespharmacy.org.

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