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New drug for arthritis in the works


Q. I have heard there is a new medicine for people with arthritis. Please tell me the name of this drug and when it will become available.

My knees are in bad shape, and I took Advil until it gave me an ulcer. Now I get by on Tylenol but would appreciate something stronger.

A. Celebrex (celecoxib) is a new kind of prescription arthritis medicine that the Food and Drug Administration may approve any day now. It probably won't be more effective against arthritis pain than current medications, but it is less likely to irritate the stomach lining.

For those who get heartburn, upset stomach or ulcers from anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Aleve, Lodine or Relafen, this new medicine may offer an advantage.

Q. I am not able to sustain an erection and haven't been sexually active with my spouse for the past three years.

I have been reading about Viagra but worry about side effects. Are there other options?

A. You need to see a physician who can evaluate the cause of your impotence. Viagra (sildenafil) has been effective for many, but it is incompatible with a number of other drugs. Some deaths have resulted from interactions. Viagra may also be inappropriate for men with certain heart conditions.

Other treatments include alprostadil (Caverject, MUSE). This drug can produce an erection for many men, but requires either injection into the penis or insertion into the urethra.

When you visit the doctor, bring a list of all medications you are taking so he can assess the potential for drug interactions and see if any of your current medicines might be contributing to your problems.

Q. I am lactose-intolerant and take calcium supplements since I don't drink milk. I have heard that these can cause kidney stones. Someone told me I should take Tums with calcium instead of calcium carbonate. Will this make a difference?

A. An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine (April 1, 1997, p. 497) showed that foods high in calcium help protect against kidney stones, while calcium supplements increase the risk of stones by about 20 percent.

Taking the supplement with meals may protect you. You can also lower your likelihood of a kidney stone with a diet rich in potassium and magnesium. Drink lots of liquids for added protection, but stay away from grapefruit juice, which boosts the danger.

The active ingredient in Tums is calcium carbonate, which is also found in many calcium supplements. We don't think there is a difference.

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