People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

December 16, 2005|By JOE AND TERESA GRAEDON

I saw a report on TV recently about the asthma drug Advair. The news wasn't good.

I used to take Advair but am now trying free samples of Foradil from my doctor. Advair cost me almost $200 for a month's supply. I have a friend with asthma who's had good results with Advair. Is he really in danger?

I've taken other drugs that have been pulled off the shelves - Vioxx and Bextra. Now I'm wondering about Advair.

What's going on?

Ever since the arthritis drugs Vioxx and Bextra were taken off the market, it seems as if the Food and Drug Administration has been more cautious.

Several months ago, an expert panel considered whether the asthma drugs Advair, Foradil and Serevent also should be withdrawn. There was concern that some people taking these medications might experience hard-to-treat asthma attacks.

Although the agency decided not to ban these drugs, safety concerns remain. That's why the FDA issued a warning recently stating that these medicines may increase the chance of severe asthma episodes that could result in death.

The regulators want doctors to prescribe these drugs only if other medicines fail to control asthma symptoms.

Do not stop taking your asthma drug until you have consulted your physician, though. He or she will want to evaluate the new warning and decide whether other medications might be more appropriate.

I am 52, going through menopause and getting good relief from black cohosh.

I was distressed to read in your column that this herb could be toxic to the liver. How dangerous is it?

There are several reports of liver toxicity associated with black cohosh in the medical literature.

We suspect this reaction is uncommon, however. A study of 300 women in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology (May 2005) reported "no serious adverse events" with black cohosh, including liver enzymes.

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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