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People’s Pharmacy: Could an anti-herpes drug help against dementia?

March 21, 2023 Updated Tue., March 21, 2023 at 5:33 p.m.

 (The Spokesman-Review)
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By Joe Graedon, M.S., and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I’ve had herpes for over 35 years and taken acyclovir to suppress it for nearly that long. When I miss my medication, I can perceive cognitive impairment. It clearly makes a difference in how alert I am and how well I can perform.

My mother-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her doctor agreed to put her on daily acyclovir, and she has improved. Is there any research to support antiviral drugs against Alzheimer’s disease?

A. Thank you for sharing your story. For decades, the predominant theory has been that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain. But most of the drugs created to reduce amyloid have been disappointing. The latest failure was reported by the Eli Lilly company on March 8. Its experimental anti-amyloid drug solanezumab did not prevent cognitive decline.

Some scientists believe that beta amyloid may actually be how the brain protects itself from infection (the “pathogen hypothesis of Alzheimer’s”). Herpes was proposed as one possible culprit over four decades ago (Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, August 1982).

Epidemiological data from Taiwan show that people with a history of herpes are more likely to develop dementia. Those who took antiviral medications had a “decreased risk of dementia” (Neurotherapeutics, April 2018). Two studies are underway to test whether the anti-herpes drug valacyclovir (Valtrex) can delay or prevent the development of dementia.

Q. My doctor has recommended Ozempic for treating my Type 2 diabetes. Previously, the medications I tried had unpleasant side effects and were not effective. My A1c went over 8 when I was on metformin.

Even though I have been watching my diet, my doctor says I need a diabetes drug to get my A1c down. What can you tell me about Ozempic?

A. Ozempic (semaglutide) was approved for Type 2 diabetes in 2017. It has some advantages over other medications because it helps control blood glucose, reduces cardiovascular problems and leads to weight loss.

Because there has been so much publicity about semaglutide for weight loss, some doctors have been prescribing it off-label to individuals without diabetes. That has led to drug shortages.

To learn more about the pros and cons of Ozempic and many other medicines for Type 2 diabetes, you may wish to read our “eGuide to Preventing and Treating Diabetes.” This online resource may be found under the Health eGuides tab at Side effects of semaglutide include serious digestive upset including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gallbladder problems and pancreatitis.

Q. Thank you for writing about treating toenail fungus with Neosporin ointment. I had the same issue with discolored and deformed toenails. This has been a problem for years, and over-the-counter products and home remedies didn’t work.

I decided to try Neosporin. In just a couple of weeks I’ve seen huge improvement in my nails, and I am thrilled.

A. “Toenail fungus” may be an oversimplified explanation for some nasty nails. Dermatologists studying nail problems used DNA sequencing to discover that about half of toenail infections are actually bacterial rather than fungal (Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, March 1, 2021). We’re glad to hear this nonprescription antibiotic is working for you.

Other readers have also reported success.

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: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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