Q. I am afraid that the new restrictions on opioids may leave some people without good options. I don’t have chronic pain myself, but when my mother was dying of lymphoma back in the 1970s, she was getting good relief from opioid painkillers.
Then her doctors, in all their wisdom, took the drugs away because they thought she might become addicted. Yes, they deprived a terminally ill cancer patient the pain relief she needed because they thought she might become an addict. I remember her screams of pain to this day.
I still feel outraged about this. I wish I could go back in time and sue those doctors. I hope reason will prevail now, and people with chronic pain will be able to get the pain relief they need to allow them to function day to day.
A. Your story is heartbreaking. We hope today’s cancer specialists and palliative care professionals are not withholding narcotics from terminal patients. However, the panic over the opioid epidemic has led many physicians to restrict such drugs for people in chronic pain. Until we have more effective and safer medicines, opioids will continue to be an important tool for those in severe pain.
Q. I have been using Tecnu for years to control poison ivy. It removes the poison ivy oil completely when it’s used after contact with the plant. It also helps dry up the rash if I wasn’t able to wash with it soon enough after contact, though I don’t know why.
Some people use Zanfel for their poison ivy rash, but I have found that it is pricey. It costs about 10 times more per ounce than Tecnu.
A. Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash and Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser help remove the urushiol oil from exposure to poison ivy, oak or sumac. If used promptly after contact, these washes can prevent the itchy rash that normally results.
A barrier cream such as IvyX can be applied before going outside. It should help protect the skin from urushiol and make it easier to wash off.
Q. Both my husband and I have been using a small amount of Voltaren gel for years. This has enabled me to avoid knee replacements, and my husband to avoid back surgery.
When I first asked my orthopedic doctor about using the gel, he checked its effect on the kidneys and decided that it was OK to use.
In fact, at first, Voltaren gel wasn’t available in the U.S. We purchased it in Mexico, Europe or Asia. Now we purchase it OTC in Canada.
Every year, we have our “wellness” exams, which include blood tests. Our kidney functions are still fine.
A. Topical NSAIDs such as diclofenac (Voltaren Gel, Pennsaid) can provide helpful relief for sore joints. Often, topical medication does not trigger the same complications as oral NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam and naproxen.
That said, some people are very sensitive to adverse effects of these medicines. Readers have reported heartburn and gastritis as well as elevated blood pressure after applying Voltaren Gel.
Topical NSAIDs such as Voltaren Gel are widely available over the counter in many countries. In the U.S., though, a prescription is required.
(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.)