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The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • October 31, 2011 (Issue 1376)
The surprising observation that oral administration of the beta-blocker propranolol (Inderal, and others) can stop the growth and rapidly cause the involution of disfiguring or life-threatening infantile hemangiomas1 has quickly led to a series of confirmatory observations and now a controlled trial. The mechanism of this effect is not known, but is thought to be...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • October 17, 2011 (Issue 1375)
A reader has asked us to review the use of propofol (Diprivan, and others) as a sedative agent for brief procedures, such as colonoscopy.

First marketed more than 20 years ago,1 propofol has a rapid onset of action (patients usually lose consciousness in less then one minute) and a short duration of action with a rapid recovery (3-5 minutes) that makes it...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • October 3, 2011 (Issue 1374)
The FDA and two of its advisory committees have been debating whether to recommend limiting the duration of use of bisphosphonates in order to prevent atypical femoral fractures and possibly other side effects of the drugs. The agency produced a 182-page background document on this subject for a joint meeting of the Reproductive Health Drugs and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • August 22, 2011 (Issue 1371)
Varenicline (Chantix), which has been associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, depressed mood, changes in behavior and suicidal ideation, appears to be the most effective drug available for treatment of tobacco dependence.1 Recently, the FDA warned that varenicline may also increase the risk of cardiovascular adverse events in patients with...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • June 13, 2011 (Issue 1366)
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of exemestane (Aromasin, and others) in postmenopausal women considered at increased risk for breast cancer found that the aromatase inhibitor, over a median follow-up of 35 months, significantly decreased the annual incidence of invasive breast cancer from 0.55% to 0.19% (PE Goss et al. N Engl J Med, epub June 4, 2011).
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • May 30, 2011 (Issue 1365)
Fexofenadine (Allegra, and others) is the most recent second-generation H1-antihistamine to become available over the counter (OTC). Cetirizine (Zyrtec, and others) and loratadine (Claritin, and others) are already available OTC. Cetirizine can be sedating in usual doses. Loratadine can be sedating in higher-than-usual doses. Fexofenadine remains nonsedating...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • May 16, 2011 (Issue 1364)
Evidence of waning immunity by 5 years post-vaccination has led the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to recommend, in addition to a primary dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age, a booster dose at age 16. Adolescents who receive a first dose of the vaccine at age 13-15 should receive a booster dose at 16-18 (before college). Those who receive their...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • May 16, 2011 (Issue 1364)
The FDA has approved the marketing of fentanyl sublingual tablets (Abstral – ProStrakan) for treatment of breakthrough pain in adult cancer patients who are already receiving and are tolerant to opioid therapy. It is the fourth transmucosal formulation of fentanyl to become available in the US for this indication.1-3

The manufacturer recommends an initial...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • April 18, 2011 (Issue 1362)
A recent article in Circulation reported that acetaminophen (Tylenol, and others; paracetamol outside the US) increased blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease. This conclusion was based on a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial in 33 patients; acetaminophen 1 g three times daily for 2 weeks was associated with statistically significant increases in...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • April 4, 2011 (Issue 1361)
The FDA has warned that prolonged use of a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) can lead to hypomagnesemia.1 Normal serum concentrations of magnesium are 0.7-1.0 mmol/L. About 30 cases of severe hypomagnesemia (<0.5 mmol/L) have been reported in long-term PPI users; when the PPI was stopped, serum magnesium levels returned to normal in less than 2 weeks.2-5...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • April 4, 2011 (Issue 1361)
The FDA has approved aliskiren/amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide (Amturnide) for treatment of hypertension, with no restrictions except that it should not be used for initial therapy. A combination of the direct renin inhibitor aliskiren and the calcium channel blocker amlodipine (Tekamlo) was approved earlier for initial treatment.1

Use of...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • March 21, 2011 (Issue 1360)
A new enteric-coated delayed-release formulation of risedronate (Atelvia – Warner Chilcott) has been approved by the FDA for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Unlike immediate-release risedronate (Actonel) and all other oral bisphosphonates, which must be taken after an overnight fast and at least 30 minutes before eating breakfast, the new formulation is taken...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • March 7, 2011 (Issue 1359)
The FDA and the manufacturer (Sanofi-Aventis) have warned healthcare professionals that use of dronedarone (Multaq), an analog of amiodarone (Cordarone, and others) approved in 2009 for treatment of atrial fibrillation,1,2 has been associated with "several" cases of severe liver injury and hepatic failure, including two that required liver transplants. Both...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • March 7, 2011 (Issue 1359)
The FDA has approved a new indication for prevention of anal cancer and anal intraepithelial neoplasia in both sexes for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil (Merck). This vaccine is already FDA-approved for prevention of cervical cancer and genital warts in females 9-26 years old and for prevention of genital warts in males 9-26 years old. HPV types 6 and 11 cause about 90%...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • February 21, 2011 (Issue 1358)
A Medical Letter reader asked if human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG; Novarel, Pregnyl and others) has any value as an adjunct to diet, adding that it is widely used for this indication in his area. Normally secreted by the placenta during pregnancy, the main therapeutic use of this gonad-stimulating polypeptide, which is not absorbed from the GI tract, has been in the parenteral treatment...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • February 7, 2011 (Issue 1357)
Pancreatic enzyme products (PEPs) have been used for decades to improve digestion in patients with insufficient pancreatic enzyme production, such as those with cystic fibrosis. All porcine-derived PEPs contain a mixture of amylases, lipases and proteases. Since use of PEPs preceded the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, they have been marketed without formal FDA approval,...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • February 7, 2011 (Issue 1357)
The FDA recently warned that accidental ingestion of the antitussive benzonatate (Tessalon Perles, and others) by children less than 10 years old can be fatal.1 This widely prescribed oral agent, which has been available in the US since 1958, can also cause severe morbidity and death in older children and adults, and not only in overdosage.

Benzonatate is...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • January 24, 2011 (Issue 1356)
The FDA, which recently approved subcutaneous (SC) administration of denosumab (Prolia – Amgen) for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis,1 has now approved the same drug with a different brand name (Xgeva – Amgen) and dosage for prevention of skeletal-related events (such as pathologic fracture, spinal cord compression or radiation to bone) in patients...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • January 10, 2011 (Issue 1355)
Several Medical Letter readers have asked about the meaning of non-inferiority trials. A non-inferiority trial is a comparison with an active control to determine whether the difference in response between the new drug and the active control is small enough (less than some pre-specified margin) to demonstrate that the new treatment is not less effective (or is only slightly less effective) than...
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics • January 10, 2011 (Issue 1355)
Glycopyrrolate (Robinul, and others), a synthetic muscarinic receptor antagonist, has been used off-label for many years for treatment of excessive drooling in patients with Parkinson’s disease, in patients taking clozapine for schizophrenia, and in developmentally disabled children.1-3 It has now been approved by the FDA as Cuvposa (Shionogi) for use...