Q. My boy friend does not suffer from impotence, far from it. But he is taking Viagra. He says it helps him achieve better erections and last longer. I think it’s ridiculous, but he jokes about it and says a lot of his buddies are also taking Viagra to improve their performance. Does Viagra really help erections for normal guys or is this all in his head?
A. Rumor has it that Viagra improves erections in normal men, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. One preliminary study suggested that Viagra might delay premature ejaculation, but there are other approaches for this problem.
Viagra is expensive and may have side effects for some men including headache, flushing, dizziness, stuffy nose or upset stomach. Your boy friend is probably wasting his money on a drug he doesn’t need.
Q. My wife has a heart rhythm problem for which she must take the blood thinner Coumadin. The doctors have been trying to find the right dose that will keep her INR at the proper level. It fluctuates a lot, and the information we have found on what to avoid in the way of foods and medicines has been very confusing.
She has arthritis, and has been told to avoid ibuprofen. One doctor said she could take Tylenol but another said not to use it more than five days in a row.
A friend of ours suggested ginger for pain. We’ve also gotten conflicting information about the sugar substitute Equal and the herb ginkgo to help memory. Are they safe with Coumadin? Any information you can send to help us get her stabilized will be greatly appreciated.
A. Coumadin (warfarin) is an anticoagulant that prevents blood clots which can cause strokes or heart attacks. Adjusting the dose can be tricky because foods like broccoli, kale or spinach can interact with Coumadin, making it less effective. But rather than avoid vegetables, it makes sense to consume about the same amount of vitamin K in food each day. Even oatmeal has significant levels of this nutrient.
Many drugs also interact with Coumadin. Occasional use of acetaminophen for pain relief appears safe, but as little as four regular-strength Tylenol (acetaminophen) tablets a day for a week could lead to bleeding problems.
We are sending you our Guides to Herbal Remedies and Coumadin Interactions for a list of herbs, drugs and foods that may interact. Anyone who would like copies, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DE-65, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Ginkgo and ginger may both increase the risk of bleeding and should only be used cautiously, if at all, by someone taking Coumadin.
Q. Years ago, I used Whitfield’s Ointment to cure athlete’s foot in one or two applications. Do you know what happened to this ointment, or do you know if there is an equal substitute? Lamisil requires many applications and is quite expensive.
A. Whitfield’s ointment is an old-fashioned anti-fungal remedy containing benzoic acid (6 percent) and salicylic acid (3 percent). Your pharmacist should be able to compound it for you or recommend a drug store that can.
Other anti-fungal drugs that work for athlete’s foot include Aftate, Lotrimin AF, Micatin and Tinactin.

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