People's Pharmacy

The Baltimore Sun

I have taken Wellbutrin XL for two years, and it has taken care of my depression beautifully. In January, my insurance company switched me to the generic Budeprion XL. I didn't think twice about it. But since then I have been very depressed, crying and irritable, with no energy or ambition. I plan to return to Wellbutrin XL, even if I have to pay more.

More than a dozen people have contacted us about experiences that are strikingly similar to yours. Some of them reported nausea or dizziness as side effects of Budeprion XL; all of them said their symptoms of depression had returned.

We have no scientific evidence that there is a difference between the brand name and the generic. Nevertheless, so many reports convince us that there should be an investigation.

We have arranged with the Food and Drug Administration to analyze any generic pills that readers of this column suspect are not equivalent to their branded counterparts. Please describe your experience and send your generic pills with as much information as possible: Name of medication, name of generic drug maker, lot number and date dispensed. (Data may be available from the pharmacy.) Send the parcel to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

I try to limit my family's salt intake because high blood pressure runs in my husband's family. I found Morton Lite Salt at the store. The package says "For normal healthy people. Not to be used by persons on sodium or potassium restricted diets unless approved by a physician." I'm a little confused.

You have found a reasonable way to cut back on sodium when cooking for your family without giving up the taste of salt entirely. Guests who must restrict their intake of sodium more completely should be polite enough to tell you that before they arrive for dinner.

I have been taking Ambien for about six months. It really helps me get a decent night's sleep, but now I have heartburn. Can Ambien cause reflux? I hate to take Nexium to counteract indigestion that might be caused by Ambien.

Ambien (zolpidem) can cause indigestion or reflux. Here is another reader's experience: "Ambien gave me a great night's sleep after years of wakefulness. The cost was disabling digestive problems: bloating, pain and acid reflux.

"After a year of pain, more than $20,000 in uncomfortable testing and drugs for reflux, I took myself off Ambien. Two doctors had insisted that my digestive woes were not related to Ambien, but after three nights of sleeplessness, the digestive problems went away."

Your column often covers high-cholesterol issues. Why don't you mention the value of adding a daily dose of organic apple cider vinegar as a great way of reducing cholesterol?

I add 1 to 2 teaspoons to my morning cranberry and orange juice, and my cholesterol is down from 184 to 132. It's tasty and a whole lot cheaper than prescription drugs.

Apple cider vinegar is a traditional remedy that is often suggested for lowering cholesterol. A Japanese study has shown that acetic acid (vinegar) added to the diet can lower cholesterol and triglycerides in rats (British Journal of Nutrition, May 2006). We have not seen such a study in humans, however.

My husband was diagnosed with diverticulitis. He was treated with antibiotics, but the doctor said he could have another attack at any time.

My husband now avoids seeds and nuts, but a different doctor says food has very little impact. I give my husband lots of fruit, yogurt and acidophilus milk and he is taking FiberCon daily. Is there anything else that might help?

Your husband might want to try probiotics (good bacteria). Such products can be purchased under refrigeration in health food stores. One reader reported: "After 10 years of being diagnosed repeatedly with diverticulitis and treated with antibiotics, my digestive system went crazy, and I lost bowel control.

"More antibiotics and prednisone were prescribed. One doctor wanted to do surgery, perhaps a colostomy, on my bowel.

"I sought a second opinion and the doctor prescribed probiotics (VSL#3). A week later I was fine. After four years I have no more diverticulitis, and my system works fine. No diarrhea."

A recent study found that a combination of anti-inflammatory medicine and probiotic VSL#3 worked better in recovery from diverticulitis than either treatment alone (International Journal of Colorectal Disease online, March 28).

I have always had a problem with dry hands in the winter. The skin on my hands dries out, splits and peels off. Ten years ago a co-worker told me about Bag Balm. It can be purchased in a 10-ounce tin at most feed-supply stores. It has an antiseptic in it and works great on dry, split hands.

Bag Balm is an old-fashioned farmers' favorite that can help moisturize human hands as well as cows' udders. Another such product is Bova Cream, found at co-op farm stores.

I just wanted you to know that I read your column recently about the power of green olives fighting hiccups. My 5-year-old got the hiccups the next day. Guess what? One green olive did the trick.

We're delighted to learn that this unusual remedy worked for your child.

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:

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