Q. My daughter insists that bioidentical hormones are superior to horse-derived hormones, and that they are safe to use over the long term. Every doctor I’ve asked says this is not so. Apparently bioidentical hormones are made in compounding pharmacies that are not Food and Drug Administration-regulated. Dosages may be inconsistent. Do you have more information?

A. Bioidentical hormones have been promoted as safer than synthetic or equine-derived compounds, but this topic is extremely controversial. The FDA doesn’t always monitor the compounding pharmacies that make them.

Dr. Susan Love has suggested that taking any type of hormone for a long time is more problematic than the specific type of hormone (natural or synthetic) used.

We are sending you our Guide to Menopause, with ways to relieve hot flashes as well as a discussion of bioidentical hormones. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: Your daughter also may be interested in a CD of our one-hour radio interview with Love.


Q. I was taking Toprol-XL for an irregular heartbeat. When I was switched to generic metoprolol, I thought nothing of it. Then the irregular heartbeats started again. I had no idea why the drug wasn’t working until I read about metoprolol problems. I was able to get more brand-name Toprol-XL and now am back to normal. I never dreamed generic drugs could cause such trouble.

A. In the past several years, a number of problems have been uncovered with generic Toprol-XL formulations (metoprolol succinate). In the latest, an Indian manufacturer called Wockhardt recalled almost 110,000 bottles because of a quality problem.

The 50 mg tablets were from Lots LN-10686, 10687, 10688, 10707 and 10708, all expiring in 02/15. Pharmacies rarely put lot numbers on prescription bottles, so it may be hard to tell whether your metoprolol was included in the recall. Nevertheless, you should contact your pharmacist to ask.


Q. I have skin tags. How can I remove them without going to the doctor’s office?

A. Most dermatologists would recommend that you have skin tags removed surgically. These fleshy growths are benign and tend to show up in skin folds such as armpits, groin or around the neck.

Readers of this column have offered a number of remedies, with varying success. They include:

• Liquid bandage: “I have used liquid bandage on skin tags with good success. Brush on twice a day. They will fall off within seven to 10 days.”

• Clear nail polish: “I use colorless nail polish for skin tags. Apply once daily and they will disappear in a short while.”

• Thread: “Years ago, I asked my doctor what to do about a skin tag. He told me to have someone tie a thread around it very tightly. It was a bit uncomfortable, but the skin tag soon disappeared.”

Others report success with applications of apple-cider vinegar or zinc-oxide ointment. If the skin tag does not respond promptly, have a doctor check to make sure it is not something more serious.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”