People's Pharmacy

December 01, 2006|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

If grapefruit increases the action of Lipitor, is it OK to drink grapefruit juice and reduce the dosage of Lipitor to save money?

This is an intriguing strategy. Researchers have occasionally used grapefruit to boost the power of some expensive medications. Cyclosporine (Sandimmune), used to prevent organ transplant rejection, can cost thousands of dollars per year. Although grapefruit juice may enable transplant patients to lower the dose and save money, researchers find that there is too much variability among patients and in batches of juice for this to be safe.

The dose of Lipitor needed to lower cholesterol is less critical than that of Sandimmune. Check with your doctor before trying this approach. We know one man who breaks his Lipitor in half, takes it with grapefruit juice and gets good results on his cholesterol tests.

What do you make of the cold product Zicam? Do you have any information about the loss of smell that might result from using Zicam?

Zicam is a zinc nasal gel that is promoted as a homeopathic treatment for the common cold. The effectiveness of zinc against cold symptoms remains controversial. Some studies indicate benefit, while others find no advantage over placebo.

There have been reports of people losing their sense of smell after using zinc nasal gel (Laryngoscope, February). The company that makes Zicam says such reports are "completely unfounded and misleading." Despite this reassurance, one reader of our column reported that after using Zicam, she now has only 30 percent of her former senses of smell and taste.

I recently read that nutmeg can be poisonous in large doses when it is used as a folk remedy. Is the same true of cinnamon? I use a large amount of cinnamon on my oatmeal every morning, probably about a teaspoonful. Is this harmful?

Cinnamon sometimes contains a compound called coumarin. At high doses over a long period of time, coumarin may cause liver inflammation. It may also have blood-thinning effects and might interact with the anticoagulant Coumadin (warfarin).

Cinnulin PF is a water-soluble extract of cinnamon with no coumarin. These capsules appear to be safe and may help control blood sugar levels.

In a recent column, you wrote about a home remedy for toenail fungus. I can't remember the product. It might have been Listerine or hydrogen peroxide.

Some readers have used hydrogen peroxide. One diluted it with an equal amount of water and sprayed it on the toes twice a day.

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:

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