Q. My mother took lisinopril for years to control her blood pressure. She regularly went to her physician complaining of a chronic cough, but he kept telling her it was allergies and prescribed Zyrtec.
After a year of this, her doctor decided she must have GERD and sent her to a gastroenterologist. The specialist found nothing.
Not once did anyone prescribe a chest X-ray. When she started losing weight and feeling extremely fatigued, I insisted on a chest X-ray. They found advanced lung cancer, and she died six months later. Is there a link between lisinopril and lung cancer?
A. Lisinopril is one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the U.S. It belongs to a class of blood pressure medicines called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors. Over 20 million Americans take this drug because it is so effective.
For the most part, lisinopril is considered safe. It can cause a chronic cough, however. That is something your mother’s doctor should have considered.
Only a few studies have addressed your question. In 2012, Canadian researchers reviewed the medical records of more than a million individuals (PLOS One, Dec. 12, 2012). They found that long-term use of ACE inhibitors was linked to a modestly increased risk of lung cancer.
A more recent study also found a slightly higher rate of lung cancer among patients who had taken an ACE inhibitor for at least five years (BMJ, Oct. 24, 2018). People who took lisinopril or a similar medicine for 10 years had a higher risk. It’s virtually impossible to determine whether any given case of cancer is the result of exposure to a medication.
Readers can learn more about other alternatives for controlling hypertension in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. It is available in the Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. Is there any cure for scabies? It produces unbearable itching.
A. Scabies is caused by the “itch mite,” Sarcoptes scabiei. Three hundred million people around the world are infected each year. Scabies spreads through skin-to-skin human contact.
These tiny parasites burrow into the top layer of the skin. Their saliva causes intense itching that gets worse at night. It often causes a rash, especially around the belt line or at wrists, elbows and armpits.
To cure scabies, doctors prescribe medications that will kill the mite. There are several options. Permethrin, the same insecticide that is commonly used against lice, is applied as a cream against scabies. An oral anti-parasitic medication called ivermectin also may be prescribed. In some communities, however, itch mites are developing resistance to these treatments (American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, February 2016).
Doctors sometimes prescribe other drugs such as lindane, malathion and crotamiton, but resistance is becoming a problem for these as well. Australian researchers are studying the potential of topical tea tree oil as an additional approach.
Q. What about taking Beano to counter the effect of gassing when you eat beans or other vegetables? Does it work?
A. Beano contains the food enzyme alpha-galactosidase. It helps break down the complex sugars called oligosaccharides before bacteria can digest them and produce gas. One placebo-controlled trial in children confirmed that this product can be helpful against flatulence (BMC Gastroenterology, Sept. 24, 2013).
(In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla. 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.)