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Medical devices not always effective for other uses
By Dr. Peter Gott | Columnist
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Published: 2/15/2010 12:09 AM

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Q. My father, age 93, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I have read about a device called a "lung flute." Can this device be used to help break up mucus and clear the lungs? I've enclosed a Web-site link to the company that makes it.

A. The Web-site link directed me to the Lung Flute's manufacturer. Based on the information there, it appears the product is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for collecting diagnostic sputum samples. This means that, after a cursory review, the device was found to do what the maker said it did without causing unnecessary harm. FDA clearance does not establish whether a product or device is effective.

I am unsure whether this device can effectively break up and clear large quantities of mucus. It is presently promoted as a diagnostic tool, not a therapy.

It does not have FDA approval for home or therapeutic use but is currently under review. I suggest you speak with your father's pulmonologist regarding what approved alternative treatments are available for his use.

Q. Because of acid reflux that I couldn't control through diet and over-the-counter medicines, my doctor had me on 40 milligrams of Nexium daily. I took this for many years, but now my insurance no longer covers it, and I cannot afford to pay out of pocket. Now my doctor has suggested using over-the-counter Prilosec. The daily dose is 20 milligrams, and the package states that it should be taken for only 14 days at a time.

When I called my doctor about this, he said it was OK to take it daily just as I had taken the Nexium. My question to you: Is it really OK? Should I also be increasing the dosage to 40 milligrams or leave it at 20?

A. I believe your doctor wants you to take 20 milligrams of Prilosec daily; however, you would be better served by asking his opinion.

Prilosec was a prescription medication used for the treatment of persistent heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease and hiatal hernia.

It was then approved as an OTC medication. While still a prescription, it was considered safe for daily use and typically prescribed to be taken as such, so I see no danger from daily use of the OTC formulation.

I cannot comment on your question about increasing the dosage because I don't know your medical history, age or gender. Again, you need to speak with your doctor about this.

Alternative treatments include over-the-counter cimetidine and ranitidine (H2 blockers), antacids, omeprazole (proton-pump inhibitor) and the many others available. You can even save money by using store brands, which are often just as effective. Home remedies include raising the head of your bed, avoiding trigger foods and exercising daily. Baking soda mixed with water, vinegar and even mustard has been touted by some of my readers as being beneficial.

© 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.