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A New Twist in Toothpaste

September 29, 1997|SHARI ROAN

Yet another newfangled toothpaste will soon hit grocery store shelves.

Colgate Total is the first toothpaste approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for preventing gum disease. The toothpaste contains triclosan, an antibacterial agent commonly found in soap. The FDA noted that no one really knows how triclosan works inside the mouth. But studies show that, when combined with fluoride, triclosan helped prevent tooth decay, plaque and gingivitis. Total's effect on preventing cavities was identical to other fluoride toothpastes.

The toothpaste should reach the market by the end of the year and will be about 25% more expensive than a standard toothpaste.

Patch-Free Approach to Quitting Smoking

The first nicotine-free smoking-cessation aid has reached California pharmacies.

Zyban, marketed by Glaxo Wellcome, is actually the antidepressant Wellbutrin renamed as a smoking-cessation tool, says Dr. Susan Robinson, a preventive-medicine specialist at the Westchester Wellness Center in Los Angeles. Robinson was involved in clinical studies on Zyban.

Zyban, which is available through prescription, most likely acts as a substitute for nicotine, stimulating some of the same chemicals in the brain that nicotine triggers, Robinson says. "If it works, it reduces the urge to smoke," she says, "and it reduces the amount of weight gain [that is sometimes a consequence of smoking cessation]."

The drug may help those smokers who dislike the nicotine patch because it delivers a small stream of nicotine.

"With the patch, it's like telling people to lose weight but eat fat," she says. "This helps people go through the nicotine withdrawal process. It just makes a lot of sense."

Zyban costs about $75 to $90 per month and is typically used for seven to 12 weeks, Robinson says. Side effects include dry mouth and insomnia.

Warning Issued on Skin-Cap

If you've been using the product Skin-Cap, a treatment for dandruff or psoriasis, call your doctor to discuss a safe manner to stop using the medication. Abruptly halting treatment could be dangerous.

According to the FDA, Skin-Cap contains prescription-strength corticosteroids, which can be hazardous to some people. The problem is that a sudden withdrawal of the product can cause psoriasis to worsen to a more serious form.

Skin-Cap is imported from Spain and marketed as a nonprescription spray, shampoo or cream for dandruff. The FDA has issued an order to detain the product at border entries.

Consumers who want more information on psoriasis can call the National Psoriasis Foundation at (800) 723-9166.

New Hope for Men Who Are Losing Hair

The pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. is awaiting word from the FDA on whether it will be cleared to market a product called Propecia, the first oral treatment for men with male pattern hair loss.

Hopes are high that the product will be given the go-ahead. A summary of three studies on Propecia presented recently showed that 86% of men who took the once-a-day drug either maintained or showed an increase in hair compared with 42% of the men receiving a placebo. The drug appears to work in the most common sites of hair thinning in men, and would be indicated for use in men only.

Prozac May Help Fight Alcoholism, Too

A new study in the recent Archives of General Psychiatry has found that Prozac was helpful for people who are found to have depression and alcohol dependence. The study participants who received the drug showed improvement in depressive symptoms and lowered their alcohol intake. However, more research will be needed to determine how effective this therapy is for people with this dual condition. The study looked only at severely depressed, even suicidal, people. Moreover, the study period was short. It's not known if the observed benefits can be sustained over time, the authors noted.

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