People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

March 31, 2006|By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON

I have the attention span of a flea and have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. My doctor prescribed Adderall to try to improve my ability to focus.

I don't find that it helps very much, and I worry that I might be at risk for heart problems. I do have high blood pressure. Are there safer medications?

Your concerns are justified. An expert panel for the Food and Drug Administration recently proposed stronger warnings for drugs prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Stimulant medications such as amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate and Ritalin) may raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or sudden death.

Since you already have hypertension, taking amphetamine could counteract the effectiveness of your blood pressure drugs. You may want to ask your physician about non- stimulant alternatives that won't affect your heart.

Your article linking cholesterol medications to memory loss was not based on evidence. There are no studies showing that these drugs have a negative effect. Instead you used letters from readers, which are not scientific. I am concerned that some of my patients may have discontinued their cholesterol medicine.

We agree that these drugs can be valuable in preventing heart attacks and strokes. Most people can take them without complications. Those who experience difficulties, however, deserve to have their concerns taken seriously. No one should discontinue medication without consulting a physician.

We have heard from hundreds of readers who have had severe muscle pain and weakness as side effects of these medicines. Many others have written about memory problems or cognitive difficulties. We have received too many case reports of transient global amnesia to ignore. In this frightening condition, people temporarily lose memory of significant blocks of time.

When I get a cold, it often becomes a sinus infection. The congestion is uncomfortable, but the headache is what really bothers me. Any suggestions for this?

Another reader shared his approach to sinus headaches: "I use nasal saline for sinus headaches. Nasal saline was first recommended to me by my ear, nose and throat doctor. Ocean Mist is the brand-name OTC product. Xlear is a version with xylitol. Both come in small spray bottles. Generic versions of Ocean Mist can be found at most pharmacies for less than $3. Xlear is about $12 per bottle."

Xylitol is a natural sugar with antibacterial properties. Unlike decongestant nose sprays, nasal saline is not habit-forming.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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