With acetaminophen, how much is too much?

Q. I take six Tylenol Arthritis Pain pills every day. They contain 650 mg each of acetaminophen. I read recently that acetaminophen can increase blood pressure. Should I worry?
A. You are taking the maximum allowable daily dose of acetaminophen (3,900 mg daily). Recent research has shown that routine use of as little as 500 mg of this pain reliever daily may elevate the risk of developing high blood pressure for some women.The Nurses' Health Study has been following thousands of women for decades. Those who relied on acetaminophen nearly doubled their likelihood of developing higher blood pressure within a three-year period (Hypertension, August 2005). Regular use of ibuprofen and naproxen also raised the risk of hypertension. Another study found that regular use of acetaminophen might also increase the risk of kidney disease. And too much acetaminophen, especially when combined with alcohol, can strain the liver. If you read the label carefully you will find that you should not take this much acetaminophen for more than 10 days unless you are under medical supervision.
Q. Is it beneficial to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics? Doctors don't seem to mention this when prescribing such drugs.
A. Many broad-spectrum antibiotics can upset the digestive tract by killing off good intestinal bacteria. Swallowing live yogurt cultures or probiotic supplements may re-establish proper balance.
There is one caution, however. The calcium in yogurt may interfere with the absorption of certain antibiotics. Wait at least two hours after taking your medicine before eating yogurt.
Q. You frequently write about the plight of the elderly and the high cost of their prescription drugs. I am middle-aged and self-employed. My medication bills are astronomical. Because I own a modest home and have some retirement funds, I am not eligible for financial assistance. What do people like me do when our monthly drug bills are in the hundreds of dollars?
A. In some respects, those in the middle without drug coverage are hit hardest. Many older folks will soon have Medicare drug protection. The very poor often qualify for Medicaid or free medicine from pharmaceutical companies. People like you are left high and dry. We are sending you our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine, with tips on shopping for Canadian drugs, pros and cons of generics and how to get assistance from drug companies. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. CA-99, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.
Q. When my husband recently picked up a new medicine for acid reflux, he read the leaflet the pharmacist inserted in the package. It said not to store this drug in the bathroom medicine chest. Why not?
A. Heat and humidity are the enemies of medicines. When you get out of the shower, the mirror is probably fogged. Warmth and moisture in the bathroom can also get into drug containers in the medicine chest. Store medications where they will not be exposed to excessive temperatures, humidity or sunlight.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019, or e-mail them at peoplespharmacy@gmail.com or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org. Their latest book is "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies" (St. Martin's Press).
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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