Proton Pump Inhibitors – Benefits and Risks

One of the many negative side effects of our high-stress, fast-food lifestyle is digestive distress in the form of heartburn or acid reflux, often symptoms of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Very often, as a result of our fast-paced lifestyle, we instinctively look for a quick fix – usually an over-the-counter drug ranging from calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids, etc.) to omeprazole, an effective proton pump inhibitor (PPI) now available without a prescription.

You should know several things before considering self-treatment of GERD. As with nearly all minor ailments, your first choice should be to consider diet and lifestyle changes that could eliminate these symptoms with no negative side effects. Try reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine (coffee, sodas, and chocolate) and spicy foods. Eating smaller meals can help, as can losing weight.

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Leftover Medications

An article in the July 4 issue of Parade magazine brought to mind a topic that should probably be addressed more often: how to dispose of unused medications. We all have these in our drawers or medicine cabinets. The last few antibiotic tablets you should have taken but didn’t, the cold medication that made you woozy, the pain pills you needed for only for a day or two, or the prescription that upset your stomach. Now these drugs are outdated and you don’t know how to get rid of them. The article by Dr. Ranit Mishori told of a “Dispose My Meds” campaign through which over 800 pharmacies have agreed to cooperate in disposing of these drugs. You can find a location through the website

If you don’t have a participating pharmacy near you, there are easy ways to safely dispose of your drugs. First, do not flush them down the toilet! They pollute lakes and rivers and enter the local water supply. There are no filters that remove the drugs, and chemical treatment often has little effect. Some researchers have theorized that the minute traces of estrogen in municipal water supplies might be partly responsible for the increasingly early onset of puberty in young girls. Others believe the presence of the residue of dozens of antibiotics encourages the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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Do we really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?

Dr. Heinz Valtin of Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire answered that question in a review published online by the American Journal of Physiology on August 8, 2002. Valtin, a kidney specialist and author of two widely used textbooks on the kidney and water balance, could not find a single paper that supports this recommendation. Furthermore, there is little indication where it began.

Back in the 1940s, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council wrote that one should attempt to drink one milliliter of water per calorie consumed. So, based on a 2,000 calorie diet, that would be two liters or about 8 8-oz glasses. But in the very next sentence, they added “and much of this can be gained from the solid food we eat.” Nearly everything we eat contains water; even bread is 30% water. And since ALL beverages contribute to water intake (in spite of what you’ve heard), it is unlikely the average individual, under normal circumstances, needs to be concerned about a water shortage. It is likely though, that the bottled water industry has adopted this concept and enhanced sales by creating a culture around “drink 8 glasses of water a day” (or else?)

There are conditions, activity levels and lifestyles where plenty of water is called for, and conversely, drinking lots of water carries certain risks. Rather than take the space to spell these out, please read more about this at CBSNews:

Doctors and medical centers are going “pharm-free”

According to an article by Jay S. Cohen, M.D. in the April 2007  MedicationSense E-Newsletter , more and more reputable, world-class university medical schools are going “pharm-free” — prohibiting big pharmaceutical companies from influencing doctors with gifts of drugs, meals, advertising novelties and posters. Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, commented, “It was indisputable that small gifts had tremendous power in influencing favorable attitudes toward products.” Medical students have provided much needed impetus for the pharm-free movement.

The pharm-free movement hasn’t grown without opposition. Some medical schools have resisted imposing restrictions on drug company gifting because of concerns about retaliation by the drug industry. Pharmaceutical companies have a profound influence over continuing education for the medical industry. The drug industry’s presence at some medical conferences is so pervasive, sometimes it is hard to tell whether the conferences are medical meetings or pharmaceutical industry advertising conventions.

Most worrisome, drug companies will continue to use the medical journals as conduits for pushing products and obtaining free coverage in the media. The medical journals were once the repository of scientific thought and research. Now, the medical journals are having difficulty ensuring the accuracy and objectivity of many drug company studies that are published.

Ditropan may cause hallucinations in some patients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff released documents which indicate a risk of hallucination and similar problems in children and older patients. The drug Ditropan, known generically as oxybutynin, already lists a variety of other nervous system risks on its labeling, but more explicit cautions are needed.

Of 202 side effect reports in Ditropan patients, roughly 1/4 of younger than 18 and older than 59 patients reported these unlisted hallucination problems. The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, had no immediate comment.

Once again, great caution is urged before using any prescription drug that has not been in the marketplace for many years, since tests for side-effect safety of these new drugs are conducted unknowingly by consumers.


Chemicals in curry, onions may shrink colon polyps

In a small study, patients with pre-cancerous polyps in the colon who took a pill containing a combination of curcumin, which is found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercetin, an antioxidant found in onions, experienced a marked reduction in both the size and number of polyps.

The potential of curcumin to prevent and/or treat cancer in the lower intestines surfaced in studies in lab rats fed curry, as well as in observational studies of Asian populations that consume a lot of curry. Quercetin has also been shown to have anti-cancer potential.