The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can His Drugs Affect Her Through Intercourse?

Q. My husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Now I am having health issues myself and my doctor is grasping at straws.

At first he thought it was a thyroid problem, then menopausal symptoms, but neither panned out. Could my husband’s medicine be passing to me through intercourse and causing some reaction in my body? He is taking pentoxifylline, Lotensin and lente insulin.

A. Women occasionally react to a medicine in their husband’s semen, even though the concentration is usually very low. Those who are allergic to penicillin, for example, might experience a reaction such as hives, burning or itching.

The medications your husband is taking are unlikely to produce such an allergy. But one way to test this possibility is to have him wear a condom during intercourse and see whether the problem clears up.

Q. We will soon be leaving for a family beach vacation. Normally I don’t spend a lot of time out in the sun because I am fair and burn easily. My pharmacist warned me that my blood pressure medicine (Altace) could make me more sensitive to the sun. As a result I look pale compared to everyone else.

I have seen ads for sunless tanning products. If I start now, will that help me avoid getting burned at the beach?

A. Sunless tanning products can produce a nice-looking bronze color. This not a true tan, though, and will not protect you from a sunburn.

Many drugs can make the skin more vulnerable to the sun’s rays. Altace is just one of them. You will need a high-SPF sunscreen plus protective clothing. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses, and avoid the beach during the middle of the day.

We’re sending you our Guide to Skin Care which lists many medicines that sensitize the skin to the sun and offers favorite sunless tanning products and sunscreens. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. S-28, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

People who react to standard sunscreens might look for a lotion containing physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock SPF 30 or Estee Lauder Advance Suncare are two such products.

Q. I take tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. It is certainly necessary, but it’s mighty expensive. I pay more than $100 for a month’s supply (60 pills).

I recently discovered that I can buy 100 pills from Canada for $38. That sounds very attractive, but are their drugs safe?

A. Canada has very high standards for pharmaceuticals. There is no reason to believe that the tamoxifen you buy from a Canadian pharmacy would be lower in quality than that you are taking currently.

A lot of people have found that purchasing prescription medicines from Canada helps them save money. Some do this by traveling across the border while others are using mail order or the Internet.

Q. What is your recommendation to prevent mosquito bites? We’re heading to Alaska and would like some advice.

A. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 4, 2002) suggests that DEET remains the most effective repellent. Products containing from 5 to 25 percent DEET provide excellent protection.

Non-DEET options include Bite Blocker with soybean oil or products with eucalyptus (Fite Bite and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent).

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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