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People's Pharmacy

The Baltimore Sun

I just had to put in my two cents on dry, cracked hands. I finally found something that worked: Surgeon's Skin Secret. It contains beeswax, lanolin and mineral oil. It lasts a long time. I have had my jar for three years. Since beehives have been found that are 100 years old, I don't worry about it going rancid.

Please let your readers know about this product. Working in the post office as I do, my skin dries out even more from the paper. This is great for mail carriers!

We found Surgeon's Skin Secret on the Web at jamark labs.com. According to the manufacturer, it was developed by a plastic surgeon in 1950. Some people are allergic to lanolin, so caution is appropriate.

Some people have written you to complain that their generic drugs are less effective. That is my experience with generic Prilosec. With my last refill, the sticker said I had saved $169.99. Because I paid $10 for the 60 tablets, I guess they were worth $179.99.

When I found out they didn't help at all, I bought some OTC Prilosec, at a cost of $24.99 for 42 tablets. The generic tablets were supposedly worth $3 each, though they did nothing, while the OTC pills at 60 cents each worked just fine.

We have heard from others that generic Prilosec (omeprazole) does not always work as well as the brand-name acid suppressor. Despite Food and Drug Administration reassurance that generics are just as good as innovator drugs, many readers of this column have a different perspective. Anyone who wishes to report a problem with generic medicine may do so at our Web site (peoples pharmacy.com).

I love grapefruit and have used it to help lower cholesterol, curb my appetite and lose weight. My pharmacist says I must not eat grapefruit while I am taking lovastatin (a generic for Mevacor). Would it be safe if I eat my grapefruit at breakfast and take my pill in the evening?

Would there be a problem with grapefruit if I were to switch to red yeast rice? I have heard that this natural product has fewer side effects and can help lower cholesterol almost as well as lovastatin.

Red yeast rice contains lovastatin and other statin-type compounds. We assume that grapefruit might increase these blood levels and therefore raise the risk of side effects such as muscle pain and weakness.

Grapefruit affects dozens of other drugs as well. They include some blood pressure pills, epilepsy medicine, sleeping pills, heart medicine and estrogen. The grapefruit impact can last up to 48 hours.

I'm a vegetarian who gives blood several times a year. Every now and then my hemoglobin is too low and they cannot take my blood.

How should I time my caffeine consumption so that it doesn't interfere with iron absorption? I've heard I should wait two hours, but is that two hours from the start of my meal or the end?

It's not the caffeine that's the problem. Compounds (polyphenols) in many beverages can interfere with iron absorption from foods such as beans and leafy green vegetables. Cocoa, peppermint, black and chamomile tea, as well as coffee all cut down on iron absorption (British Journal of Nutrition, April 1999).

Although there has been little research on the time frame for this interaction, waiting two hours after the end of a meal should solve the problem.

I was saddened to read about people suffering the side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. In less than a year, I have lowered my cholesterol 30 points with fish oil. I take a tablespoon of cod-liver oil a day.

Not only does it lower bad cholesterol, it also raises good (HDL) cholesterol. I wish more people knew about this very simple and safe remedy.

The benefits of fish oil are well-established. There are more than 10,000 articles on fish oil in medical literature. Many refer to its ability to lower triglycerides and raise good HDL cholesterol. Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory effect.

I have read about various constipation treatments in your column. I have a different and more enjoyable solution - ice cream with sorbitol (the nonsugar sweetener). It has been working for me for years.

Nonsugar sweeteners such as sorbitol are not absorbed from the digestive tract and have a laxative effect. Whether found in sugarless gum, candy or ice cream, they can all help relieve constipation. Too much, though, might cause diarrhea.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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