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Manufacturers Use Lactose as Filler in Some Medicines


Question: I have to avoid all milk products because of lactose intolerance. Even the smallest amount of milk sugar gives me cramps and diarrhea.

I've noticed that some over-the-counter medicines contain lactose. Why would the manufacturers put lactose in pills? I am sure I am not the only one who can't take these medications.

Answer: Lactose is often used as a filler in pills because it helps hold the active ingredient together and makes the pill big enough to handle. Some people are so sensitive that even the relatively small amount in a medication can cause distress.

To find out if a drug contains lactose, check the label, the Physicians' Desk Reference or contact the manufacturer.

Q. I am in my late 50s with severe back pain due to a chronic condition along with arthritis. As treatment, I take two to four 400 milligram tablets of ibuprofen daily.

How does ibuprofen compare to Darvon for a condition like mine?

Also, why does the package information for ibuprofen products warn against taking aspirin at the same time? Presumably a man my age should take aspirin every day to lessen the risk of a heart attack. Is that a bad idea?

A. Darvon (propoxyphene) is a narcotic-like pain reliever. Ibuprofen is primarily an anti-inflammatory agent that works differently to relieve back or arthritis pain.

Regular daily use of any analgesic demands medical supervision. Ibuprofen can be irritating to the digestive tract and may also do damage to the kidneys. Darvon can be habit-forming if used over a long period of time.

Aspirin, like ibuprofen, can be hard on the stomach and the combination may cause you problems. Ask your physician if you need a daily aspirin tablet and if your benefit will be worth the risk of gastrointestinal trouble.

Q. I've seen a new athlete's foot remedy, Lotrimin AF. Is it any good?

A. Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) is at least as effective as other anti-fungal products. All athlete's foot remedies work best when they are used conscientiously for at least one month.

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