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Booster Shots

Here's the Rub

October 12, 1998

Have trouble swallowing pills? You're in luck. Scientists are developing new techniques for delivering medicine by putting drugs into easy-to-use creams and gels, reports HealthScout, an online medical news service. A topical drug would benefit people who can't swallow pills easily or who can't take medicine that must be injected.

The topicals aren't new: Nitroglycerin ointment has been available for angina sufferers for decades, but most drugs won't penetrate the skin. The key to the new creams and gels is a "skin enhancer" that allows drugs to seep through the skin. The creams and gels also deliver small doses of a drug slowly over a long time, unlike most pill forms.

Sex and Seniors

While they might not think about it as much as a 20-year-old college student does, seniors also have sex on their minds. A recent study from the National Council on the Aging found that 48% of senior citizens engage in sexual activity at least once a month and 40% of them would like to have more sex than they currently have. Among sexually active seniors, 79% of men and 66% of women said an active sex life is important to their relationship with their partners. Not surprisingly, the study was funded by Pfizer Inc., the drug-maker that produces Viagra, the impotence pill, although the aging council said Pfizer played no role in developing the questionnaire.

Chewing Away Pain

Most people know that chewing a wad of gum is great for calming jittery nerves or preventing earaches for airline passengers. But a study from Finland says that chewing gum with a sweetener derived from birch bark may also help children with painful ear infections. Daily doses of the sweetener xylitol may reduce the incidence of ear infections in children by as much as 40%, researchers found. They said the protective effect may lie in the sweetener's bacteria-fighting ability. The study suggests that doctors may have an alternative to antibiotics for fighting ear infections.

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