Peoples' Pharmacy

January 12, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

Why is Merck spending so much money advertising Fosamax Plus D? Could it be that the company is worried people will quit this osteoporosis drug after learning that the benefits persist even after stopping use?

I recently read that acid-suppressing drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec may be linked to hip fractures. Drugs such as Fosamax can cause symptoms of heartburn, for which people would take acid suppressors. Could this create a vicious cycle?

Two articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Dec. 27) reinforce your perspective. In one study, women who discontinued alendronate (Fosamax) after five years lost some bone density but were no more likely to suffer broken vertebrae than women who stayed on the drug for a decade.

The other article suggests that people who take strong acid-suppressing drugs for more than a year are at increased risk for hip fracture. You are right that drugs for osteoporosis (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax) can cause symptoms of heartburn, which could easily lead to a prescription for drugs such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec or Protonix.

I thought my serious leg cramps were just old age creeping up on me. I handled them with additional calcium and magnesium supplements.

It was only when I was diagnosed with celiac disease that I realized I was not absorbing calcium. Since I started the gluten-free diet for celiac, I haven't had any leg cramps at all.

People with celiac disease must avoid gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. It triggers a reaction that harms the lining of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of crucial nutrients, including calcium.

I have used one or two green olives for hiccups for many years, as have all my family members. It stops them almost immediately. Have you ever run across anyone else who has used this? I'm rather curious as to why it works.

We have been collecting hiccup remedies for more than 30 years, but this is the first time we have heard of using green olives. Most hiccup remedies work by stimulating the phrenic nerve at the top of the hard palate. Chewing crushed ice or swallowing a spoonful of granulated sugar or ice cream seems to interrupt the hiccup reflex. Perhaps the green olives work on a similar principle.

I have begun to take mineral oil because of repeated episodes of dry pellet-like stool. What, if any, are the problems of taking a tablespoon of mineral oil each night?

Mineral oil is an effective stool softener, but it can interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. If you took it every night, you might develop low levels or even deficiencies of vitamins A, D, E or K.

A safer alternative for this problem is docusate. It can be found as the product Colace or other store brands. Do not combine docusate with mineral oil since it could lead to complications.

I am interested in the formula for the gin-and-raisin remedy for arthritis. How much of each make a batch, and how many would I take each day?

This recipe calls for golden raisins. Empty a box into a shallow bowl, then pour just enough gin to cover them. Allow the gin to evaporate, a process that might take as long as a week. Then keep them in a covered container and eat nine raisins daily.

Although there is no logical explanation, this remedy seems to work for many people. A word of warning: People who are allergic to sulfites must steer clear of golden raisins, which have sulfites added to keep them light-colored. One person experienced a swollen tongue because of this allergy.

I know the experts say black cohosh is ineffective for hot flashes, but I wouldn't be without it! Periodically I stop taking the supplement to see whether it really makes a difference. Within 24 hours, sizzling hot flashes are back with a vengeance! As soon as I restart the capsules, the problem ceases.

A study reported recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Dec. 19, 2006) found that a standardized black cohosh extract offered no benefit over placebo for symptoms of menopause. Other randomized studies support your observation that black cohosh is helpful in easing hot flashes.

My husband had stents put in his arteries three years ago. Ever since getting them, he has been taking blood pressure medicine. Since he has been on this medicine, he has lost all interest in sex.

His doctor prescribed Viagra, but it did nothing for my husband's desire. This problem is ruining my marriage. Is there a blood pressure medicine that does not reduce libido?

Many medications can affect sexual interest, satisfaction or performance. Because this is such a personal issue, people are often reluctant to discuss it with their physicians. A urologist or a physician trained in this area might be able to advise your husband on the most appropriate blood pressure medication.

Some physicians report that ACE inhibitors (such as enalapril or lisinopril) or ARBs (such as losartan or valsartan) may be less likely to affect sexual function (Drugs, Vol. 65, No. 6, 2005). Your husband also should have his testosterone levels checked.

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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