Viagra works for one woman, but FDA warns against her using it


Q. I often read in your column about individuals suffering lack of libido due to anti-depressant use. I assume "libido" indicates a lack of fulfillment from the sex act, since they have enough interest to write.

My wife was finding our sex life less than rewarding as a result of taking the anti-depressant Zoloft. I'd heard that some women had used Viagra for relief of this situation, so we got a sample to try.

It worked very well. Now that she's used the Viagra, she doesn't always need it. I thought you might find our experience interesting.

A. Libido is generally regarded as sexual desire rather than ability to achieve orgasm. Anti-depressants that affect the brain chemical serotonin may have a negative impact on both these aspects of sexuality.

We are quite interested in your wife's experience. A few similar cases have been reported in the medical literature.

Others should be aware, however, that the FDA advises against women using Viagra. A preliminary study of Viagra in postmenopausal women (not taking anti-depressants) did not show a significant benefit.

Side effects of Viagra include headache, flushing, stuffy nose, indigestion and visual changes. Drug interactions are worrisome, so this medication should be used only under medical supervision.

Q. I have had stomach trouble since college. I injured my knee playing basketball and took a lot of ibuprofen. This led to an ulcer.

Now I'm bothered with chronic heartburn. Doctors have prescribed medicines including Zantac, Prilosec and Prevacid. When I lost my insurance, I couldn't afford expensive drugs and now take quite a bit of Tagamet HB.

I hope you can send me some information on side effects and interactions of this drug, because I may be on it for a long time. A. Medications such as Prevacid, Prilosec, Tagamet and Zantac reduce the secretion of stomach acid. With less acid in the stomach, ulcers heal more quickly, and heartburn is less distressing.

Tagamet (cimetidine) may interact with many other drugs including alcohol, caffeine, certain asthma medicines, anti-anxiety agents and blood pressure pills. Headaches, confusion and sexual difficulties are possible side effects.

Regular use of high doses of cimetidine or other acid-suppressing drugs may reduce vitamin B12 absorption. This may lead to neurological symptoms such as burning tongue, tingling or numbness of hands or feet, and poor memory.

Q. My doctor has prescribed spironolactone since 1995 when I was diagnosed with a condition that causes chronic potassium loss. I had dangerously low potassium levels for seven years.

I will need to continue taking this drug indefinitely, and I am concerned because I read that it can cause tumors in rats. Please let me know if this is really a problem. A. Aldactone (spironolactone) has just been proven beneficial in treating congestive heart failure, so many other people will be taking this diuretic for long periods. Unfortunately, researchers have not determined whether the warning based on tumors in animals represents a threat to humans.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail them via their Web site (

King Features Syndicate

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