Q. My cholesterol has always been around 200, but I have a bad family history and a past angioplasty. In addition to a good diet and regular exercise, my doctor has prescribed various statin drugs to lower my cholesterol. Three different ones have given me peripheral neuropathy (pins and needles).
On Niaspan and Zetia my total cholesterol is 160, with bad LDL at 97. My doctor wants it below 80 so he prescribed Crestor, which he takes himself.
I started on Friday, and on Sunday I woke with what has been diagnosed as transient global amnesia. I played golf that morning and played well, but I kept asking the same questions over and over. My wife and my golfing partners decided I should go to the hospital after nine holes.
This began at 7 a.m., and I did not regain any short-term memory until 3 p.m. By 5 p.m. I was back to normal. The doctors doubt the Crestor was responsible. Could it have been?
A. We can't say whether Crestor caused your transient global amnesia (TGA), but others have reported memory problems and TGA while taking statin cholesterol-lowering medicines. The first person we heard from was Duane Graveline, M.D. He described his experience in the book "Lipitor: Thief of Memory."
We spoke with Dr. Graveline and other experts on this topic on our radio show. For an hour-long CD of this interview, please send $15 in check or money order to: People's Pharmacy (CD-523), P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.
TGA is not a common side effect, but it is very distressing. You and your doctor may need to find something other than a statin to reduce your LDL cholesterol further.
Q. When you write about the high cost of medicines, you should be more helpful. Tell people to shop around, because prices vary from one pharmacy to another. The savings can be significant.
When my mother's medicines became cost-prohibitive, we contacted the drug companies. They have programs to assist people with very low incomes. Please tell your readers about these alternatives.
A. It makes sense to compare prices from several pharmacies, both local and mail-order. People with low incomes should check the pharmaceutical companies' assistance programs. They require some paperwork but can save a lot of money. To find out more, go to the Web site www.helpingpatients.org.
Q. My doctor prescribed Ultracet for minor pain. My druggist assures me it has no narcotics, mainly Tylenol. Just half a tablet eased my pain for 12 hours. Are there any over-the-counter drugs similar to this (besides Tylenol)?
A. Ultracet contains acetaminophen (the ingredient in Tylenol) and tramadol (the ingredient in Ultram). There is no OTC equivalent for tramadol.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
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