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People’s Pharmacy: Are you trading coffee convenience for higher cholesterol?

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 16, 2020

People who drink black coffee have higher “good” cholesterol, but adding milk, cream or sugar negates those benefits.  (Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
People who drink black coffee have higher “good” cholesterol, but adding milk, cream or sugar negates those benefits. (Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Joe Graedon, M.S., </p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. You’ve written about coffee raising cholesterol unless it is filtered to remove cafestol and kahweol. My brother has been using only Keurig coffeemakers for the past 10 years. He is experiencing high cholesterol and memory problems. Do the Keurig devices raise cholesterol since they do not have filters for the coffee grounds?

A. Keurig-type machines that use “K-cups” or “pods” to make a single serving of coffee have become extremely popular. If you take a K-cup apart, you will find a filter in it. We don’t know whether that filter removes cafestol and kahweol. Consequently, we can’t say with certainty that your brother’s coffee habit affects his cholesterol. We suspect, though, that it’s less likely to pose problems.

Recent research shows that drinkers of black coffee have higher “good” HDL cholesterol (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, online, Nov. 2). If people add milk, cream or sugar, however, the HDL benefits disappear.

Q. I am unable to get the flu shot due to an allergy to egg lecithin. Will the COVID-19 vaccine have egg protein in it, as well? I have asthma and am susceptible to bronchitis.

A. At this time, the Food and Drug Administration is considering two anti-COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization. Both use the new mRNA technology, which completely bypasses the need for eggs in producing the vaccine.

We usually say we can’t second-guess the FDA, but we do anticipate that one or both of these vaccines will be made available for people at high risk. When the time comes for you to get vaccinated, be sure to ask which vaccine you will be getting. If it is from Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, you won’t need to worry about egg protein.

Q. I took Zoloft for depression for 22 years, and it worked well. The cost of the name brand got too high, so I tried generic sertraline.

I have had serious problems with this (dizziness, spacing out while driving, disorientation for three to four hours post-dose, return of depression symptoms three to four days after change). I found one generic that works for me, but pharmacies are dumping it to save a few dollars per prescription. I have not done well with generic sertraline from several other companies.

Mix and match generics are not good for me. I believe FDA standards for bioequivalence are inadequate. I’ve read what you’ve written about authorized generic medicines. How can I find one?

A. Authorized generics are licensed by the original manufacturer and must follow the identical recipe as the branded product. Other generic products have to be reverse-engineered and may have different inactive ingredients.

We received this message from another reader: “Greenstone sells the authorized generic sertraline. I bought 180 pills for $45, as I didn’t want to wait for insurance approval. I had to pay $500 for 45 Pfizer pills before this.

“Now the pills look exactly like the Pfizer brand name ones. It’s even stamped ‘Zoloft’ on one side. I guess they are just taking the pills off the same assembly line and bottling them as Greenstone.

“I have transitioned from the Pfizer-branded Zoloft to Greenstone sertraline and have not noticed any difference.”

You can learn more about authorized generics in our eGuide to Saving Money on Medicines. This online resource is available in the Health eGuides section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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