Just in time for Valentine's Day comes this, ahem, uplifting tidbit from our director of health research, who stumbled upon it while looking into the erectile-dysfunction drug sildenafil (Viagra) for entirely work-related purposes. It seems that in addition to its well-known human effects, the popular drug might also give a boost to wilting plant life.
The shortage of doxycycline recently announced by the Food and Drug Administration could leave many people searching for alternatives because the antibiotic is used to treat a wide range of conditions that afflict millions, including acne, bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and some sexually transmitted diseases, and Lyme disease. If that's the case for you, talk to your doctor about your options before you run out of medication, because you should be able to find a suitable replacement in most cases.
With cold and flu season peaking, the recall Thursday of 24 varieties of Triaminic and Theraflu Warming Relief syrups due to faulty child-resistant safety caps serves as a reminder to parents that cough and cold medications can be dangerous for kids. They haven't been proven to provide a benefit either, so parents (and their children) are better off first trying non-drug treatments that are safer and can make your child feel better.
If you suffer from overactive bladder you now have two new options: Botox injections (yes, the wrinkle-shrinking drug), and an over-the-counter version of the Oxytrol patch, which used to require a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration approved both recently. But our medical advisors recommend caution before trying either medication.
Not unless you're very sick with the flu or you're sick from it and vulnerable to complications because you're hospitalized, pregnant, 65 or older, have asthma, or are otherwise at high risk. "Tamiflu is a tricky topic. People have an unrealistic idea about what this drug can do," says Beverly Schaefer, RPh, pharmacist and co-owner of Katterman's Sand Point Pharmacy in Seattle.
If you haven't come down with the flu yet, there's still a good chance that you will. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season is likely to last several more weeks, leading to fever, aches, headaches, and general misery. That's something our team here at Consumer Reports knows all too well since some of us, including me, are stuck at home with the virus. Here are a few lessons I learned while in "quarantine".
If you ask your doctor for a brand-name drug, there's a good chance he or she will comply, even if there's a cheaper, equally effective generic drug available. That's especially true if your doctor is older, works in a small practice, or, big surprise, frequently has visits from drug representatives.
If you take a sleeping medication that contains zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Zolpimist, or generic), you could still have levels in your body the next morning that are high enough to impair driving, even if you feel wide awake. That's according to the Food and Drug Administration, which said Thursday it was requiring manufacturers to lower the recommended dose of the insomnia drugs by half to help reduce the risk of traffic accidents. Women are especially at risk because they clear the drug slower than men.
A change in the shape or color of a drug can make you less likely to take it, according to a new study. It found that people who regularly took generic antiseizure drugs but who were given pills with differing appearances at each refill appeared less likely to take their medications as prescribed.
Check your prescription container to see if a manufacturer is listed on the label. If your bottle says "Ranbaxy," call or take it back to the pharmacy where you filled the prescription to find out if it's been recalled. The pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy announced recently that it was recalling 41 lots of generic Lipitor (atorvastatin) due to concerns that they might contain small glass particles.
The outbreak of fungal meningitis due to a contaminated steroid has affected 490 people and caused 34 deaths, according to updated figures released earlier this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Update: As of Nov., 27, the CDC reports the number of people affected has increased to 510 and caused 36 deaths.) Our medical advisers say the ongoing rise in cases means people who received a tainted injection and who feel fine should continue to watch for any signs of infection. It also underscores our advice to avoid using medication from compounding pharmacies if possible, and to turn to steroid injections for back pain only after trying other treatments.
A: Until other much-needed changes occur, you should only use a medication from a compounding pharmacy if no other FDA-approved product is available, say our medical advisers. Compounding pharmacies create individual, customized drugs. They can, for example, omit ingredients such as lactose or gluten for people with allergies, flavor drugs to make them easier to take, create lower doses for children, or prepare a liquid, dissolvable lozenge, or suppository for those who can't swallow a capsule.
Want to find out if pharmacies in your area are open during Hurricane Sandy or other disasters? A useful online tool we discovered is from a group called Rx Response, which has just activated its emergency response system in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
A: No. The combination can be risky. Some doctors will prescribe high doses of niacin to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, or decrease elevated triglycerides, when a statin alone has not been enough. But the combination of the two might increase the risk of muscle pain that can be debilitating, and a rare, life-threatening form of muscle breakdown called rhabdomyolysis that can lead to permanent kidney damage and coma. There's also no clear evidence that statin drugs and niacin together work any better than a statin alone, according to an analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
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