Drugs and Supplements

What is the most effective NSAID for back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have frequent back pain. I usually take acetaminophen (the Tylenol brand), but I hear it may not be effective for back pain. Is there anything to that?

DEAR READER: If you'd asked me that question even a year ago, I would have said, "Acetaminophen works fine for most people." Lots of people are bothered by back pain. When it strikes, all you want is relief -- and fast. Many folks turn to over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin).

Should I switch my atrial fibrillation medication?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been taking warfarin without any problems for years to treat atrial fibrillation. Now my doctor wants me to switch to a different medicine. Should I?

DEAR READER: Atrial fibrillation (aFib) is a rapid quivering in your heart's upper chambers, or atria. Instead of vigorously pumping blood down into the lower chambers (the ventricles), the quivering upper chambers let blood pool inside them. As blood sits, it can form clots. If a clot gets into the bloodstream and blocks a vessel supplying your brain, it can cause a stroke. Therefore, a person with aFib needs anticoagulant (anti-clotting) drugs.

Has antibiotic use in meat and poultry contributed to antibiotic resistance?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In a recent column on antibiotics, you didn't mention their use in meat and poultry as a cause of antibiotic resistance. Hasn't this contributed to the problem?

DEAR READER: You're correct. In the United States, food-producing animals such as cattle and poultry are regularly treated with antibiotics. This has contributed to antibiotic resistance: bacteria that are no longer susceptible to antibiotics. How do bacteria become resistant? Let's say you take penicillin to treat a bacterial infection.

Do antidepressants cause weight gain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks I could benefit from an antidepressant. But I've heard that antidepressants cause weight gain and I'm already overweight. Do any antidepressants cause less weight gain than others?

DEAR READER: Many of my patients have asked me that question. Like you, they were hesitating to take antidepressants because of the possibility they would gain weight. And they're right: Many antidepressants do cause weight gain in some people. The question has been how much weight gain they cause.

When should I go back on a bisphosphonate drug?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am currently on a bisphosphonate "drug holiday." How will I know if, or when, I should go back on the drug?

DEAR READER: After menopause, loss of bone (osteoporosis) can lead to crippling bone fractures. Drugs called bisphosphonates slow bone loss. Below, I've put a table with detailed information about these drugs. But bisphosphonates can cause troubling side effects. The pills can cause burning in the esophagus. And a small number of users have developed bone loss in the jaw and in the large bone in the upper legs (the femur), causing the femur to break.

What are the differences in erectile dysfunction drugs?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is there a difference between the drugs that are available for erectile dysfunction?

DEAR READER: Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem faced, to one degree or another, by many middle-aged and older men. Since sildenafil (Viagra) was launched in 1998, men have been turning to medication to help address this problem. There are currently four ED drugs on the market: sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and avanafil (Stendra).

What does antibiotic resistance mean for the future?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been hearing a lot about "antibiotic resistance." What does it mean?

DEAR READER: When penicillin was discovered, many people (including doctors) thought bacterial infections would become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, penicillin and other early antibiotics didn't successfully treat all kinds of bacteria that make us sick.

Do I really need to be on statins?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had bypass surgery last year, and I've been on two different statins. But I had severe muscle and joint pain. Do I really need to be on a statin? The side effects are awful for me.

DEAR READER: Statins are the most widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. They significantly lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol in the body. And they've been shown to reduce death, heart attack and stroke risk by up to 30 percent in people at high risk.

How can I cut down on my type 2 diabetes medications?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have Type 2 diabetes. Is there anything I can do to cut down on my medications?

DEAR READER: Yes. In fact, some of my patients have entirely eliminated their need for medication with aggressive lifestyle changes. And many more have reduced the number or the dose of the medications they are taking with the same lifestyle changes.

Does testosterone therapy really work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've seen a lot of commercials advertising testosterone therapy for "low T." Does it live up to its promise? Should I be on it?

DEAR READER: I've seen the commercials, too. They promise that testosterone therapy for low blood levels of testosterone, or "low T," will make you feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp and sexually functional. Testosterone therapy is a good option for some men, but there are also risks.