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Is Your Medication Working Overtime?

Many medications on the market today are prescribed for one condition but have been found to help others as well. Is your drug doing double duty?

Statins Do Double Duty continued...

Statins are also being recommended for nearly all patients with type 2 diabetes. In guidelines released by the American College of Physicians in the April 20, 2004, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, lead researcher Vincenza Snow, MD, recommended that anyone with type 2 diabetes and at least one heart disease risk factor should be taking one of the statins. The risk factors are:

  • 55 or older
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL "bad" cholesterol (LDL over 100)
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Existing heart disease

Diuretics, which are used to treat high blood pressure by reducing fluid levels in the body, are believed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 75%, according to research reported at the 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders. Once Alzheimer's disease has developed, the oral diabetes medicine Avandia may improve memory and thinking ability in people with a mild form of the disease.

Epilepsy Drug Has Many Uses

Topamax, used to control epileptic seizures, may offer new treatment options for other conditions as well. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that alcoholics taking Topamax were able to reduce their daily alcohol intake and increase the number of alcohol-free days they had while attending an alcoholism treatment program. Topamax is thought to work by inhibiting the release of dopamine, stimulated by alcohol, in the brain's "reward" center, thus curbing alcohol cravings.

In another study, Topamax was unexpectedly found to improve scars, lessening discoloration and improving their cosmetic appearance. In August, the drug was also approved by the FDA for preventing migraine headaches in adults. A study published earlier this year in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that patients who took Topamax had half as many migraine headaches a month as patients taking a placebo. Most migraine medications on the market are designed to relieve symptoms after a migraine appears.

One such medication used to treat the symptoms of migraine may also chill hot flashes. The drug, called Neurontin, is approved by the FDA to control epileptic seizures and is also used to treat bipolar disorder as well as some social phobia disorders. In the June 2000 issue of Neurology, Thomas J. Guttoso Jr., MD, studied the effect of Neurontin on a handful of patients and found that the drug "reduced the frequency of hot flashes by about 87%" in the six patients he studied.

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