Advertisement
  1. Archive

Viagra's cost is a problem

Question: How can insurance companies refuse to pay for Viagra? I am a registered nurse with a master's degree in nursing and a doctorate in higher education. For 20 years I taught nursing and medical students about human sexuality, and I know that erectile dysfunction has a major impact on a relationship.

Penile implant surgery has been covered by insurance for years, so why shouldn't insurance companies cover Viagra as well?

Sexuality is a crucial aspect of quality of life. It's unreasonable to expect people to forgo it just because they can't afford the pills.

Answer: A satisfying sexual relationship can improve the quality of life. Under our health care system, however, insurance companies limit the availability of certain prescription medications, and quality of life is not always a priority.

Everyone should have access to basic care, but that is too often not the case. Unfortunately, the cost of Viagra, like that of many other medicines, is so high that insurance companies understandably balk at picking up the tab.

Anyone who wants Viagra should certainly be able to buy it, just like those who want Propecia to counter hair loss. But the first consideration of a health care system should be providing life-saving medicines, such as treatments for heart disease, cancer or diabetes for those who need them.

Loss of sleep troubling

Question: I have read that lack of sleep can have a negative effect on memory and concentration. That's me. Some nights I have a hard time falling asleep. Other times I fall asleep okay and then wake up around 3 a.m. and toss and turn till the alarm goes off.

I am tired of feeling tired, having so little energy and worrying about my memory. My doctor offered to prescribe Ambien, but I am reluctant to mix it with the Zoloft I take for depression. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Zoloft might be contributing to your sleeping difficulties. Whether adding a sleeping pill such as Ambien would improve your memory and energy is uncertain.

We are sending you our "Guide to Getting a Good Night's Sleep," with a list of medications that cause insomnia and suggestions on non-drug approaches. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. I-70, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Ask your doctor whether a different antidepressant might be appropriate for you. Some are less likely to cause insomnia and might even improve sleep.

Don't medicate shyness

Question: Thank you for advising against medicating a shy 8-year-old. I, too, was a very, very shy child, sensitive, quiet and often introspective. Now, at 45, I am a minister in a large church and very comfortable speaking to groups of 20 to 1,000 people.

Unfortunately, the message most often received by shy children is that there is something wrong with them. This causes feelings much worse than shyness, such as inferiority and uselessness.

I "outgrew" my shyness as a young adult in seminary. I'm glad no one gave me medication to change me, but I do wish I had received messages of affirmation instead of discouragement.

Answer: Thank you for pointing out that pills are not the only solution to shyness. Support and "social effectiveness therapy" might be more helpful in the long run.

Osteoporosis treatment

Question: I am concerned about my sister, who has been taking Fosamax to treat osteoporosis for nearly two years. A month ago, she suddenly developed swallowing problems and could not eat or even sip water. The doctor recommended that she stop Fosamax immediately because it had given her an ulcer at the end of her esophagus.

Now she is on applesauce, Ensure and milkshakes, and I am wondering about this medication. Is there any other way to treat osteoporosis?

Answer: Fosamax is quite effective for preventing bone loss and fractures due to osteoporosis. It is not for everyone, however. This drug can be extremely irritating to the throat and esophagus if a pill gets stuck. In some cases, people have been hospitalized because of the kind of severe ulceration your sister experienced.

The manufacturer of Fosamax recommends that this pill be swallowed with a full glass of plain tap water on an empty stomach at least half an hour before breakfast. The person must remain sitting or standing during that time to help the pill make it into the stomach. This might not work for everyone, though, since some people have a hard time getting pills down and might not even realize it if Fosamax lodges in the esophagus.

There are other ways to treat osteoporosis. Evista (raloxifene) and Miacalcin (calcitonin) are used to strengthen bones. Estrogen is also effective.

We are sending you our guides to osteoporosis and estrogen, which discuss benefits and risks of all these therapies. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. WU-52, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Sleep trouble

Question: I sometimes have to get up in the middle of the night to urinate and then have a hard time falling asleep again. What is the new drug you mentioned that might work in this situation?

Answer: Ask your doctor about the prescription sleeping pill Sonata. It goes to work fast and wears off quickly, so it is unlikely to cause a morning hangover.

Fluoride-free toothpaste

Question: I have a toxic reaction to sodium fluoride in toothpaste. All the toothpaste in the supermarket contains fluoride. What product can you suggest?

Answer: You might want to try plain baking soda for dental hygiene. Although it is not elegant, it cleans teeth without fluoride. If you prefer more conventional products, your health food store probably carries fluoride-free toothpaste such as Nature's Gate, Weleda and Tom's of Maine Natural Toothpaste.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. They can be reached by e-mail at PHARMACYmindspring.com or in care of the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Up next:BRIEFLY

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement