Q. Years ago, my mom came to visit — with 18 bottles of pills. During the visit, her health deteriorated, and I persuaded her to give me a list of her pills.

I plugged them into a program on the AARP website and found there were some dangerous interactions between several of her pills. Once we started checking what each one was for, she consulted her doctor and weaned herself off the ones they agreed she didn’t need. Within a month she went from not being able to function or speak normally to acting like a young woman!

A. Thank you for sharing your mother’s story. The more medicine people take, the greater the risk of serious drug interactions. Your mother was in a high-risk situation with 18 different meds on board.

Drug safety experts are encouraging doctors to deprescribe medications that are no longer essential. You can learn more about avoiding interactions and complications from prescription drugs in our book “Top Screwups.” You can find it at your local library or in our online store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q. My daughter, who has been seriously depressed and suffers terrible pain, is doing ketamine therapy. This has worked wonders. She needs 75% fewer pain medicines (which means she no longer needs opioids) and feels so much less depressed. This drug has been a life saver.

A. Ketamine (Ketalar) was approved as an injectable anesthetic in 1970. It is especially helpful for burn or accident patients who are in great pain. That’s because this drug has excellent pain-relieving properties.

A recent review of ketamine research describes its use in treating pain as well as depression and suicidal ideation (Anesthesiology Research and Practice, April 1, 2020). We are delighted to hear how well it is working for your daughter.

Others should note the potential drawbacks of this medicine. Injections for treatment-resistant depression work well, but only for a week or two. Some people have abused this drug, and it can cause cognitive impairment, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure as well as dissociation, anxiety and increased depression. Doctors can now prescribe a variant of ketamine, esketamine (Spravato), as a nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression or suicidal ideation. It is not clear that this form is effective in easing chronic pain, however, and it is expensive if insurance doesn’t kick in.

Q. When I had bad reflux, I went on Nexium. After a year or so, I started noticing my memory decreasing. No way did I connect my memory problem with Nexium.

Then I was diagnosed with diabetes and realized I had to lose weight. After I lost 20 pounds, my reflux went away!

As a result, I slowly and cautiously began decreasing my Nexium. I finally stopped it about a year ago. I’ve recently noticed an improvement in my memory. I still can’t remember people’s names well, but I easily remember recent events.

A. People don’t always realize that weight loss can reduce symptoms of acid reflux (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Sept. 17, 2020). Congratulations on your success in dropping the weight and discontinuing the medication, since neither is easy to do.

Scientists have recently discovered that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors such as esomeprazole (Nexium) or lansoprazole (Prevacid) can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Gut, online, Sept. 2, 2020). The investigators recommend that doctors exercise caution when prescribing such drugs for extended periods.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website:


—King Features

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