Q. My doctor shaved off some skin and put Spanish fly (cantharidin) on my wart. It stung for 24 hours, but the wart went away. Forget the bacon grease, duct tape or other home remedies. This works.
A. Spanish fly has an undeserved reputation as an aphrodisiac. It is actually a very irritating substance made by male blister beetles.
Dermatologists have used the active ingredient, cantharidin, to trigger an immune response that helps eliminate warts. This prescription liquid must be applied with care by a physician since it might burn and cause a painful blister.
Q. I took hormones for years and then discontinued them when there was so much negative publicity. Without HRT, I have hot flashes, night sweats and poor sleep. My doctor wants me to resume hormones, but I would rather not.
Are there any alternatives that will help with these symptoms? I would like some straight answers.
A. Hormones relieve symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, but side effects may include an increased risk of gallstones, migraines, hypertension, asthma, breast cancer, heart attacks or strokes.
German researchers tested a combination of the herbs black cohosh and St. John's wort (Obstetrics and Gynecology, February 2006). This combination was significantly better than placebo in alleviating menopausal symptoms and produced few side effects.
We are sending you our Guides to St. John's Wort and Estrogen: Benefits, Risks and Interactions for more information on various options including herbal treatments.
Q. You recently responded to a person whose pharmacy made a serious error by instructing that the medicine be taken four times a day instead of four times a week. I was very disappointed that you did NOT answer the question that the person asked: "Is there anything else to be done?"
You said "mistakes happen." EXCUSE ME! Pharmacies need to ensure that mistakes DON'T happen. They need to make sure that their pharmacists are not overworked. A mistake could kill someone.
The mistake should have been reported to the state attorney general's office. The pharmacy should, at the very least, write an apology to the patient and explain what procedures will be put in place to keep such a mistake from happening again.
A. We're sorry that we may have seemed callous to this serious error, and we agree that a written apology from the pharmacy is in order. Medication errors are far too common in pharmacies and hospitals. An estimated 50 million mistakes are made each year.
Normally, the state Board of Pharmacy regulates pharmacy practice. Since the reader had already notified this agency, we did not think it necessary to alert the attorney general's office. The patient caught the error before harm was done. Until a system is devised to eliminate all errors, everyone must be vigilant about prescriptions.
Q. Is there anything that works for cold sores? I have a red, itchy, ugly sore on my lip that people stare at.
A. There are several antiviral medicines that help heal cold sores (herpes simplex) more quickly. Ask your doctor whether Famvir, Valtrex or acyclovir would be appropriate for you.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
& copy; 2006 King Features Syndicate Inc.