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Drugs Blog


Foul Odor Prompts OTC Medication Recall

Wednesday January 20, 2010

McNeil Consumer Healthcare is voluntarily recalling several popular over-the-counter medications after consumers reported a moldy, musty smell. A small number of people have experienced nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or diarrhea.

The smell is thought to be due to trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA), which is found in the wood pallets that house the packaging materials for the drugs. While scientists haven't extensively studied this chemical, so far no major health problems have been reported in the scientific literature.

Some of the products on the recall list include Benadryl, Extra Strength Tylenol, Rolaids, Motrin IB, Children's Motrin, Tylenol Arthritis, and more. You can find the full list (PDF) on the FDA's website.

Healthcare Costs a Problem? Visit a Community Health Center or Free Clinic

Tuesday February 3, 2009

Save Money on Your Medications
Each week, Dr. Mike offers a tip on how to save money on your medications.

Community Health Centers

Community health centers that are regulated by the federal government can be found in many parts of the country. These clinics provide care to people without health insurance and have sliding fee scales based on income. Many of these clinics have pharmacies on site or have contracts with community pharmacies.

Find a health center in your community.

Free Clinics

Free clinics are community clinics that provide health care for free or very little cost to uninsured people. These clinics help their patients get low cost or free medications. Some free clinics have pharmacies on site or have arrangements with local pharmacies, and some rely on samples and pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs.

Find a free clinic in your community.

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Methadone a Leading Cause of Accidental Overdoses

Monday February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Medication Safety Tip
Dr. Mike shares information on how to take your medications safely.

I was startled to read an article from an Indiana newspaper that identified the dramatic increase in deaths from an overdose of methadone.

Because methadone is an inexpensive alternative to OxyContin (oxycodone), it has become a widely prescribed drug for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. For example, the cost of a two-week supply of OxyContin is over $200.00 while the cost for a two-week supply of methadone is less than $30.00.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, methadone can cause slow or shallow breathing and dangerous changes in heart beat that may not be felt by the person using the medication. Life-threatening side effects and deaths have occurred in people starting methadone for pain control and in people who have switched to methadone from other strong narcotic pain relievers.

If you use methadone for pain relief, be safe:

  • Take methadone exactly as prescribed by your doctor - taking more methadone than prescribed can cause breathing to slow or stop and can cause death.
  • While taking methadone, you should not start or stop taking other medicines or dietary supplements without talking to your doctor. These changes may cause less pain relief or also cause a toxic buildup of methadone in your body
  • Learn the signs of methadone overdose, such as trouble breathing or shallow breathing; extreme tiredness; blurred vision; inability to think, talk or walk normally; and feeling faint, dizzy or confused.

More Information:

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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Antidepressants: People’s Beliefs About Using These Drugs

Friday January 30, 2009

People who are hesitant to use antidepressants most often are young, have never taken antidepressants, view their depression as mild and temporary, and feel unclear about the reasons for their depression.

This is according to an interesting medical study, Explaining Patients’ Beliefs About the Necessity and Harmfulness of Antidepressants, that looked at patients’ beliefs about the use of medications to treat their depression.

Guidelines for the treatment of depression recommend that people with a diagnosis of depression take medications for at least eight months after their depression symptoms have lessened. However, more than 50% of patients stop their medication too soon or take it erratically, which may increase their risk for a return of depression symptoms.

The authors of this study suggested that physicians need to address these concerns with their patients to help them make better informed decisions about whether to use antidepressant medications. However, a physician’s indifference about these issues may increase the likelihood that their patients will not take their medications and, therefore, not recover.

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Economy Got You Down? Ten Ways to Save Money on Your Medications

Tuesday January 27, 2009

Save Money on Your Medications
Each week, Dr. Mike offers tips on how to save money on your medications.

If you have a chronic illness and take several medications, the costs may become a serious burden, especially in this economic downturn.

The following are some well-established ways to save money on your medications:

  1. Buy generic medications.
  2. Shop around at pharmacies in your area.
  3. Ask your pharmacy to match the lowest price in the community.
  4. Shop for generics at “Big Box” stores.
  5. Stick to the no-name store brand when buying an over-the-counter (OTC) medication.
  6. Learn about pill splitting.
  7. Go postal and buy thru the mail.
  8. Buy medications online. Buying your medications online can be easy. Just make sure you do it safely!
  9. Choose your health plan wisely.
  10. Ask your doctor to prescribe a cheaper alternative.

For all the details, read: 10 Cost-Saving Recommendations to Help You Save Money on Medications.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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Fibromyalgia: Drugs Approved by the FDA to Manage Pain

Wednesday January 21, 2009

From the FDA
Dr. Mike brings you the latest information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration including consumer drug updates, new drug approvals, new drug indications, and first time generic drug approvals.

In a recent consumer health update, Living with Fibromyalgia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes fibromyalgia, how the condition is diagnosed, and a discussion of the first two medications approved to treat the pain associated with the condition.

People with fibromyalgia - which affects two percent to four percent of the population - have often turned to pain medicines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and sleep medicines for relief.

The medications previously approved by the FDA to specifically treat pain associated with fibromyalgia are Lyrica (pregabalin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). Last week, the FDA approved a third drug - Savella (milnacipran) - for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Savella is expected to be available starting sometime in March 2009.

Although the mechanism by which these drugs produce their effects is unknown, the three FDA-approved medications reduce pain and improve function in people with fibromyalgia. While those with fibromyalgia have been shown to experience pain differently from other people, the mechanism by which these drugs produce their effects is unknown.

More Information About Fibromyalgia

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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Yes We Can!

Tuesday January 20, 2009

FDA Study Finds Consumer Medication Information Not Consistently Useful

Monday January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Medication Safety Tip
Each week, Dr. Mike shares information on how to take your medications safely.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a study that found that the printed consumer medication information provided with new prescriptions by retail pharmacies does not consistently provide easy-to-read, understandable information about the use and safety of medications.

The FDA-sponsored study, Expert and Consumer Evaluation of Consumer Medication Information, was carried out using shoppers who were trained to simulate patients. These shoppers visited drugstores around the U.S. and gave the pharmacists prescriptions for two commonly prescribed generic medications – metformin (commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes) and lisinopril (commonly used to treat high blood pressure). The shoppers collected the consumer medication leaflets provided with their prescriptions. Medical experts and consumers evaluated the quantity and quality of this information.

In 1996, Congress called for 95 percent of all new prescriptions to be accompanied by useful consumer medical information by 2006. The FDA study showed that:

  • six percent of the time, the shopper was not given a leaflet
  • 25 percent of the information failed to meet minimum standards for usefulness
  • 97 percent of the lisinopril leaflets and 82 percent of the metformin leaflets failed to adequately warn consumers about stopping the medication if side effects occurred

According to the FDA, the consumer leaflets should include the name of the medication you’re taking and how to use it, how to know if you are improving for the condition being treated, situations when you should not use the medication, symptoms of serious or frequent side effects and what to do, and encouraging you to talk to your health care professional about your medication.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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Viagra: The Little Blue Pill and the CIA!

Friday January 16, 2009

Drug of the Week
Each week, Dr. Mike features a commonly used medication or class of drugs. Learn what they are used for, how they work, and any news updates or controversies.

Viagra (Sildenafil), along with Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil), is used to treat erectile dysfunction. These medications, which belong to class of drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5 inhibitors), can be taken at least an hour before you plan to be sexually active. PDE-5 inhibitors have a high success rate, are easy to use, and often result in an erection if you are sexually stimulated.

How PDE-5 Inhibitors Work
For the duration of an erection, blood fills tissue in your penis, causing it to enlarge and become stiff. The PDE-5 inhibitors relax smooth muscle, allowing your penis to fill with blood.

Side Effects of the PDE-5 Inhibitors
The more common side effects of the PDE-5 inhibitors include skin flushing, stuffy or runny nose, diarrhea, indigestion, and headache. You may also experience some vision problems for several hours after taking a PDE-5 inhibitor, including a slight bluish tinge to your vision or increased sensitivity to light.

Do Not Use a PDE-5 Inhibitor If... you are taking any medications that contain nitrates (such as nitroglycerin used to treat chest pain) or using an alpha-blocker (such as Cardura used to treat high blood pressure or an enlarged prostate). The combination of these medications with a PDE-5 inhibitor can lower your blood pressure significantly, possibly causing a stroke or heart attack. Talk to your doctor to discuss treatment options for you erectile dysfunction.

Viagra and the CIA
Last month, the Washington Post reported that a 60-year-old Afghan tribal chief with four younger wives was given Viagra by a CIA officer. According to the article, the officer "returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills." Perhaps the four wives were smiling as well!

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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Does Your Painkiller Plug You Up?

Thursday January 15, 2009

Medication Side Effects
Each week, Dr. Mike shares information about a common side effect.

Constipation Is a Predictable, Expected Side Effect of Narcotic Painkillers
Oxycontin (oxycodone), Percocet (Acetaminophen; Oxycodone), and Vicodin (Acetaminophen; Hydrocodone), used for the treatment of mild to moderate pain, are among the best-selling medications in the U.S. In 2007, more than 100 million prescriptions were written for these drugs. One of the most common side effects of these medications is constipation. If you use one of these drugs, there is a good chance that you will develop some degree of constipation.

Getting Treatment
If you are scheduled for minor surgery or you have developed pain from an accident or health condition, you doctor may prescribe a narcotic painkiller. Talk to your doctor about constipation at the time that you get your narcotic prescription. She may recommend that you increase your fiber and water intake, and take a stool softener, such as docusate (Colace and others) or a stimulant laxative, such as bisacodyl (Ex-Lax Ultra and others). Your pharmacist is another resource for recommending which laxative to use.

A Personal Story
Last summer, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. My dentist prescribed several days of Vicodin for the pain. I got pain relief, but I also got constipated, which lasted several weeks and was worse than my toothache. When I needed to have a second tooth pulled, I declined the Vicodin and used acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) and an ice pack. I was uncomfortable for a day, but NO CONSTIPATION!

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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