Q. I have read that Prilosec will be going over the counter in the fall. Perhaps you can answer the following questions:
1. Is this true?
2. When is the expected date?
3. Will it be prescription strength or a reduced version?
4. What is the estimated cost per pill?
5. Is there a generic available?
A. For years, Prilosec was the most popular prescription drug for heartburn and acid reflux. The FDA has now approved Prilosec for OTC sale at a dose of 20 mg. This is one of the doses available by prescription. Doctors can prescribe either 10, 20 or 40 mg pills.
Prilosec OTC is expected to become available towards the end of September. The cost is expected to be around $30 for 42 tablets. That is substantially less than the prescription price of around $4 per pill.
Generic omeprazole is currently only available by prescription. It is almost as expensive as the brand name Prilosec, but for those with insurance the co-pay might be less than the OTC price.
Q. I heard that carbonated drinks rob the bones of calcium. Is that really true? If so, should I be avoiding beverages such as seltzer water or any carbonated water?
A. Nutritionists used to warn that the phosphorous in soft drinks would have a negative impact on calcium balance. But according to osteoporosis expert, Robert Heaney, MD, there is no evidence for this. If carbonated drinks are harmful for bones, it may be that women and children are drinking them instead of calcium-rich milk.
We don’t see any reason to avoid carbonated water or seltzer. To maintain good bone strength, though, make sure to get adequate calcium, magnesium and vitamin D along with plenty of weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging or tennis.
Q. I read with interest the question about a woman with a terrible cough. She takes blood pressure medicines, and you warned against Sudafed, an over-the-counter decongestant, because it could raise blood pressure.
I too was on medication for hypertension and had a terrible cough. I looked up my medication and found a nagging cough listed as a side effect. My doctor changed my medication and the cough went away. I hope that woman will look into this possibility.
A. Other readers suggested that the woman with the disruptive cough might actually be the victim of an ACE inhibitor reaction. Many blood pressure medicines such as Accupril, captopril, enalapril, Prinivil or Zestril can trigger a persistent cough that does not respond to cough syrup. Blood pressure drugs should never be stopped without medical supervision, but a person having a problem with cough as a side effect should talk to the doctor about an alternate medication.
People should not have to endure drug side effects such as coughing, dizziness, dry mouth, headache or swollen ankles. Readers who would like an overview of options may order our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. Please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I hate creamy sunscreens. They make me feel slimy. Can you suggest any that won’t make be feel like a greased pig?
A. You may wish to look for a gel-type sunscreen. They have an alcohol base that doesn’t feel slippery once it dries. Brands include Banana Boat Active Sport, Bull Frog Quik Gel, Coppertone Gel and Vivant Clear Gel.

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