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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

People’s Pharmacy: Are brand-name eye drops safe for dry eyes?

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

Q. I’ve suffered from extremely dry eyes for more than three decades. However, my ophthalmologists have always recommended that I stick with single-dose packaged drops, containing no preservatives, and not generic brands.

I’ve always wondered if this is really necessary, since these drops are certainly pricey. With the recent recall, though, I’m thinking maybe these precautions are appropriate. I suppose even the name brand, single-dose drops could be subject to contamination. Honestly, I cannot live without these drops, and I hope you can reassure me.

A. The Food and Drug Adminstration’s warning about eye drop problems involves house brands from CVS Health, Leader, Rugby, Target, Rite Aid, Velocity and Walmart’s Equate Hydration PF Lubricant Eye Drop. These were all multi-use bottles containing 10 to 15 milliters.

As far as we can tell, brand-name products such as Systane, Refresh, TheraTears or Blink products are not included on the FDA’s problem list. Single-use artificial tears are also less likely to pose a problem.

Q. When I turned 65, my doctor prescribed a blood pressure pill and a statin. I asked why, and the answer was “happy birthday!” What? Just because of my age, drugs are automatic?

My blood work results prior to starting the meds were 1 point above the optimal range on cholesterol, and 2 points over on the lower blood pressure number. In my book, I was normal.

Not long after starting the drugs, I started losing muscle and my legs became weak. Then, every morning after urinating I would be doubled over with pain.

It puzzled me that I was on a combination blood pressure medicine that contained a diuretic, even though I was not retaining fluids. I saw a new doctor who changed the meds.

I also began drinking hibiscus tea. My blood pressure is better than ever. Why should a birthday mean you have to start prescription medications?

A. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have established an algorithm to determine cardiovascular risk. Age is a key part of that calculation. Even men who have good numbers for cholesterol and blood pressure may qualify for a statin as they become older. We agree with you that age should not automatically trigger a prescription.

Your symptoms concern us, though. Muscle weakness and abdominal pain could be a signal for muscle breakdown related to a statin. Please ask your doctor to check your kidney function.

You may find helpful information in our “eGuides to Blood Pressure Solutions and Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.” These online resources are available under the Health eGuides tab at

There is evidence that hibiscus tea may help lower blood pressure, working through the same mechanism as some popular medications.

Q. I have Crohn’s disease. Six months on Humira did no good. Stelara seems to be working, but within two weeks of the first infusion, my hair started falling out.

Has anyone else reported this side effect? It is very upsetting.

A. We have not heard from any other readers who have experienced hair loss with ustekinumab (Stelara). The official prescribing information is also silent on this possibility. However, a search of the medical literature through PubMed turned up several case reports. You should discuss this concern with your gastroenterologist.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”