Q. I have read that antiperspirants could be dangerous because the aluminum they contain can be absorbed into the body. Is there any basis to this?
A. The association between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease has been controversial for decades. Research suggests, however, that high doses can be neurotoxic.
Investigators have found that the aluminum in antiperspirants can be absorbed through the skin, but concluded that levels were too low to be dangerous. A case reported in the American Journal of Medicine (Dec. 15, 2004) suggests that this might not always be true. One woman developed bone pain and fatigue after four years of daily antiperspirant use. Her blood aluminum levels were elevated. After stopping the antiperspirant, her aluminum levels decreased, and the symptoms resolved.
Q. Last year, I spent $1,200 on Lamisil to cure nail fungus. This three-month program required a prescription, a blood test and, of course, a visit to the doctor. Despite all this time and money, there was absolutely no improvement in my nails.
I wrote to the company that makes Lamisil and complained. I didn't ask for my money back. I just wanted some answers.
Novartis replied with a form letter saying Lamisil did not necessarily cure nail fungus, and the company did not guarantee the efficacy of the product.
I was angered by this flippant attitude. I could've used nothing and saved a great deal of money with the same result. I guarantee my work. Why don't drug companies?
A. One of the best-kept secrets of the pharmaceutical industry is that most medications are only partially effective. One drug company executive created quite a stir when he told an industry audience, "The vast majority of drugs -- more than 90 percent -- only work in 30 or 50 percent of the people."
Lamisil clears nail fungus in 60 percent to 70 percent of the patients tested. Even for those who get benefit, there is a 15 percent relapse rate.
Home remedies are untested, so we have no way to gauge their effectiveness. They are inexpensive, however. Many readers of this column report success with approaches such as soaking nails in dilute vinegar or pau d'arco tea. Others tell us that applying Vicks VapoRub, tea tree oil or iodine to the nail can be helpful.
We are sending you our Guides to Home Remedies and Nail Care for further details. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. HR-311, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I've had migraines for many years. I think I've taken every migraine drug on the market and even ended up in the emergency room a few times.
I was finally sent to a neurologist, who told me to take vitamin B complex (B-100). I can honestly say I have not had a migraine headache in two years. I couldn't believe after so much time taking drugs that all I needed to do was take a vitamin. I hope this helps someone else.
A. Research shows that high doses of riboflavin (400 mg of vitamin B-2) can prevent migraines when compared with a placebo (Neurology, February 1998). Other alternative therapies that have been studied and shown helpful include the herbs feverfew and butterbur. The mineral magnesium (300 mg once or twice daily) has also helped migraine sufferers.
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, NY 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate, Inc.