Revisiting Preparation H, Prozac

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Q. After using Preparation H for several days, my blood pressure went up.

Later that week I read in your column that someone else had experienced the same problem. My doctor was skeptical, to say the least, so I lent him the clipping. Now he can't find it to return it.

Would you write about this again?

A. Preparation H was reformulated several years ago and now contains phenylephrine. This compound constricts blood vessels, which can cause an elevation in blood pressure.

There is a warning on the label: "Do not use this product if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, or difficulty in urination due to enlargement of the prostate gland unless directed by a doctor." Your experience suggests some healthy people also should be wary.

Q. Our house burned down in December 1995. When my husband went for a refill on blood-pressure medication in April 1996, the doc asked how he was doing. Robert said, "a little depressed," and was put on Prozac.

Soon I started seeing personality changes, and by fall he was suicidal, having nightmares about death, tremors and feelings like electric shocks. The doctor just kept adding more and more drugs. I read that Prozac could cause the symptoms Robert was experiencing, but when I brought this research to his doctor, he basically said "nonsense."

The next year my husband attempted suicide six times and was hospitalized in the psych ward three times. They tried more medications than I can list, but he was depressed and suicidal throughout. When the psychiatrist recommended electric shock treatment my husband and I realized we had to get him off all the meds or he was going to die, from the drugs or by his own hand.

He went off cold turkey in October of '97. This caused severe side effects, but in about four weeks the worst passed. It took him eight months to get back to the way he was before taking Prozac.

A. Many people find that antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Effexor are lifesavers, lifting them out of a pit of depression. Others report severe side effects.

Nausea, dizziness, anxiety, sexual difficulties and insomnia are not uncommon. Some manufacturers maintain that suicidal thoughts are no more likely among patients being treated with such drugs than among untreated depressed people.

We have prepared the guides Psychological Side Effects and Antidepressant Pros & Cons that offer more information on this issue. Anyone who would like copies, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. MX-23, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717.

Q. I read with great interest a comment on salsa improving psoriasis. My husband has suffered from this skin condition for 19 years and has tried dozens of prescription creams for it.

The person who wrote you was eating salsa every day. Was it on food or by itself? Any information will be appreciated.

A. The person who first wrote to us about this remedy was not thinking about psoriasis when he first started indulging in salsa on his food. As he graduated from mild to very spicy, he noticed that the cream he used for his skin lesions, Ultravate, worked much better than usual, and some spots cleared up without treatment.

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, and capsaicin creams are sometimes helpful for psoriasis. We theorized that this is why the salsa worked. Another reader tried this approach:

"For more than 30 years I have been plagued with psoriasis. Then I added salsa, Cajun-style foods and cayenne pepper capsules to my diet. This appears to have wiped out my skin disease within weeks. My legs, arms, body and face have been smooth and clear for six months now. The only remnants are red knuckles and elbows. I hope you will tell other sufferers."

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site: on the network. Their newest book is The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies (St. Martin's Press).