Oral contraceptives may help the morning after


Q. My husband and I plan to have children, but not until he is out of graduate school.

Last weekend, we had a rare moment to relax. We started to make love, but at the critical moment discovered we had run out of condoms. I convinced us both that I was not at a fertile point in my cycle.

The next day I realized my calculations were a bit off, and I panicked. My best friend gave me her birth control pills, and I took four the first day and then two more the second day. Does this approach really prevent pregnancy?

A. If the oral contraceptives are taken within 72 hours of intercourse, postcoital contraception prevents 75 percent of pregnancies. The recommended dose varies with the type of birth control pill: two tablets of Ovral or four tablets of Levlen, Lo/Ovral, Nordette, Tri-Levlen (yellow pills only) or Triphasil (yellow pills only). The dose must be repeated 12 hours later.

You may wish to consult your doctor about Preven, a prescription contraceptive you can have on hand for an emergency.

Q. I had a knee operation last week, and my orthopedist gave me samples of Vioxx, saying that these new pain pills wouldn't bother my stomach the way aspirin or ibuprofen does. Now I'm sick! The stomach pain is just as bad as if I had taken aspirin.

A. Vioxx and Celebrex are a new kind of pain reliever referred to as COX-2 inhibitors. In clinical trials, they were less likely to cause heartburn and ulcers than traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Even Vioxx and Celebrex may cause upset for people who are especially vulnerable, however. Be sure to let the surgeon know how you reacted. You'll need another approach to pain control.

Q. I took Mevacor to control cholesterol, but after a few months I developed constant pain in my legs, ankles and feet. I found that the muscle pain and fatigue went away when I stopped taking the Mevacor, so my doctor switched me to Pravachol. Unfortunately, I had the same reaction.

The doctor prescribed Questran. I have had no muscle problems on this drug, but it is not bringing my cholesterol down as well.

A cardiologist suggested I try niacin. Will it really help?

A. The most effective cholesterol-lowering drugs are "statins," including Mevacor (lovastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin). Some people develop muscle pain and weakness while on such medications. This very serious complication requires blood testing and medical supervision.

Questran can lower cholesterol, although it may not be as effective as the statins. Side effects may include constipation, gas, indigestion and nausea.

At high doses, niacin is an effective cholesterol-lowering medicine. As a bonus, it can lower triglycerides and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. It requires medical supervision, though, since it can affect liver enzymes, raise blood sugar and aggravate ulcers.

King Features Syndicate

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