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2 ulcer medications increase the alcohol level in blood

Social drinkers may become drunk after taking one of two commonly used ulcer drugs, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Cimetidine (marketed under the name of Tagamet) and ranitidine (known as Zantac) can increase blood alcohol levels in people who consume 1 to 2 glasses of wine, beer or distilled spirits. For a week, 20 men, ages 24 to 46, were fed breakfast and given the equivalent of about 1.5 alcoholic drinks one hour later. Participants were then

treated with one of three ulcer drugs _ cimetidine, ranitidine and famotidine (Pepcid). Ranitidine is the third most commonly prescribed anti-ulcer medication, and all three of the drugs are commonly used to treat ulcers and to control the excessive production of stomach acid. Blood alcohol levels were 34 percent higher in subjects treated with ranitidine and 92 percent higher in patients treated with cimetidine, the study found. No significant increases were reported for famotidine. The manufacturers of ranitidine, Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, took issue with the study's findings, saying "numerous, larger well-designed studies have consistently shown that ranitidine when taken as prescribed does not affect alcohol metabolism."

Dry skin comes with winter

More than half of all adult Americans suffer dry skin and the "itchies" during the winter. So, with five more weeks of winter still to be endured, heed the advice of Dr. Roger Brodkin, a dermatologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Actually, winter skin problems aren't caused by low temperatures, he says, but by the season's low humidity. Human skin is kept soft and smooth by air moisture. When the humidity drops, the skin becomes brittle, especially the lips and fingertips. To counteract the condition, Brodkin suggests less scrubbing during baths and showers, thereby reducing the loss of skin oils. He also advocates using milder, less alkaline soaps. After the bath, he suggests pampering the skin with oils or lotions. For do-it-yourselfers, Brodkin has a homemade skin lotion. Put one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a cup of milk and shake vigorously. Pour the mixture into your bath or pat it on after your bath.

_ Compiled from news services to the Times