Graedons: Only use Vicks as intended

Aug. 27, 2014 @ 05:08 PM

Q. Years ago, my mother, who was a nurse, used Vicks VapoRub almost as a cure-all for us children. One hot summer day, my family and friends were out in the yard enjoying themselves while I was in the house suffering silently with a very sore rectum.
I didn't want to tell anyone of my embarrassing pain, so I decided to use Mother's cure-all, Vicks. I felt that if it could cure just about everything, it should be able to cure my pain. WAS I EVER WRONG!
My sister says she still remembers hearing my screams as I ran from one end of the house to the other like a cat with its tail on fire. An ice cube finally cooled things down a bit, but whenever Vicks is mentioned, I still remember that pain.

A. The maker of Vicks VapoRub is very clear that the product is for external use only. The label states, "Do not use: by mouth, in nostrils, on wounds or damaged skin ..." That should include other orifices as well.
Years ago, we heard from readers that Vicks could be used as a hemorrhoid remedy. Someone who tried it had a reaction very much like yours: "Applying it [Vicks] to the most sensitive escape route in the human abdomen made me imagine I was a jet fighter with afterburners. I moved distractedly through the house like an F-15 pilot saying: 'Mayday! Mayday! I took a direct hit to my tail section!'"
Q. I seem to have permanent nerve damage after taking Lipitor (atorvastatin) for six years and then Crestor (rosuvastatin) for a year. I developed severe pain in my leg muscles, primarily my calves, which led me to discontinue the drug, but the pain has remained.
I have been diagnosed with probable nerve damage. The neurologist acknowledged that they are seeing side effects after years of statin use by patients.
I control the pain with help from a pain specialist and strong opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone. I hear daily about others with similar problems, though most doctors seem to be in denial.

A. Many physicians believe that statins are critical for heart health, especially if a patient has suffered a heart attack or has clear signs of heart disease. Clinical studies designed to get Food and Drug Administration drug approval for statins did not reveal signs of nerve damage, so such symptoms are often discounted as not drug-related.
That said, in recent years researchers have uncovered neurological side effects (Pharmazie, June 2014). According to the World Health Drug Information (Vol. 19, No. 2, 2005), "Statin-associated peripheral neuropathy may persist for months or years after withdrawal of the statin." Our book "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them" offers more insight on why drug side effects may be overlooked. It is available online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. I am allergic to ragweed. Every fall, I suffer miserably until the first big frost. My allergist has suggested shots, but I hate getting stuck every week, and they are expensive. What else can I do besides stock up on steroid nasal spray and antihistamines?
A. It's a bit late for this year, but there are now prescription desensitization tablets. Instead of getting a shot, you put a tab under your tongue daily starting three months before allergy season. Since you are allergic to ragweed, ask your doctor about Ragwitek. Hopefully your insurance company will cover this expensive treatment, which could cost around $10 per pill.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."