Drugs and Supplements

Calcium, vitamin D, and fractures (oh my!)

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

People over 50 who want to keep their bones healthy may be tempted to take calcium and/or vitamin D supplements, but recent research found that these are not likely to be effective; for most people, getting these nutrients from food is a better strategy.

Medical marijuana

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Contributing Editor

Medical marijuana is controversial, in part because many people aren’t aware of how and why it is used. Most commonly it is used to ease pain, and doctors need to be prepared for the questions their patients will have about it.

Fish oil capsules: Net benefits for the heart are limited

At one time there was hope that omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil capsules might prevent heart disease, but 15 years of research has found this belief to be untrue, and taking fish oil could even be harmful to some people.

Taking an anticlotting drug? If you need a procedure, be prepared

People who take an anticlotting medication are at higher risk of bleeding if they need an invasive procedure, but stopping the drug ahead of a procedure carries its own risks.

Genetic testing to predict medication side effects

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Genetic testing may help identify when certain people may be at risk of having an adverse reaction to medication. Researchers hope that such testing will eventually be lead to the ability to recommend the most effective medication that has the fewest side effects for a specific person’s condition.

When a drug does serious harm, the FDA wants to hear from you

If you’ve had a reaction or other issue with a medication, the Food and Drug Administration wants to know about it. The FDA provides tools for health professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions to drugs and medical devices.

Is the “full course of antibiotics” full of baloney?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

Conventional medical wisdom has held that taking antibiotics for longer periods of time produces better results and lowers the risk for antibiotic resistance. But the evidence for this is slim, and researchers are now questioning this approach.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen for the aches and pains of exercise?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study of endurance athletes who took ibuprofen during marathon running raises questions about the wisdom of ibuprofen during exercise, and in addition that people with kidney disease may want to exercise caution when taking these medications.

Vitamin D: Finding a balance

The best way to get the vitamin D your body needs is through sun exposure, but since many people are now more vigilant about sun protection, eating foods rich in the vitamin is preferable to taking a supplement. It’s also important to be aware that too much vitamin D can be harmful.

Most cases of pink eye (conjunctivitis) don’t require antibiotics

Mallika Marshall, MD

Contributing Editor

While bacterial conjunctivitis responds to antibiotic treatment, many people with the more common viral type are prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily, which contributes to increased resistance to these medications.