Archive for Drug Reviews

Fisherman’s Friend with Benefits: The Losenge that Needs a Restraining Order

February 22, 2012  |  Drug Reviews  |   |  1 Comment

Sucrets are From Mars, Fisherman’s Friend is from Venus

Wait a sec, as I pry a losenge off my molar. That can’t be good for the enamel. My hacking cough hasn’t stopped, but my dependence on big, sugary losenges must come to an end. It’s time to graduate to a more adult solution—one that isn’t candy in disguise. (I’m talking to you, Cherry Sucrets!)

Emboldened by maturity, I reach for a pack of Fisherman’s Friend. Tearing open the package, I nearly spill the contents. Open with care. Looking at the package again, I catch site of the word “menthol”, but it doesn’t make much impact. Menthol, schmenthol.

People talk about Fisherman’s Friends being strong , so I’m ready—or, as ready as you can be for a turbo-powered menthol kick to your respiratory system. FIRE IN THE HOLE. In full panic mode, my tongue plays hot potato with the losenge, which cannot be confused with its less lethal competitors. Will someone get this losenge a restraining order? Once the panic ends (two long minutes), I make peace with the Fisherman’s Friend and let it do its thing….Hmm. The cough eases up within five minutes and the losenge doesn’t become a carbuncle on my molar. It was a Fisherman’s Friend…with benefits.

CBC Takes on COLD-FX: A Lesson in Hair Splitting

CBC’s Marketplace nitpicks COLD-FX

If COLD-FX is a fraud, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! Nobody would be happier than Sinus Sister to partake in their public shaming (Flogging is illegal, right?). To date, I’ve gladly shelled out about $900.00 from my purse for COLD-FX. Then came a CBC exclusive report, which you can watch here. When Peter Mansbridge introduced the segment last week, a chill went down my spine. The CBC’s Markeplace earns its reputation for outting charletons. Did this broadcast spell the end for COLD-FX?

Jaw clenched, I watched the segment, admiring host Erica Johnson’s hair. Her composure and style distracted me, momentarily, from the fact that the segment was a dud. It failed to launch. Here’s what I think happened: Marketplace devoted considerable resources to bringing down COLD-FX. When they couldn’t disgrace the cold remedy, they started nitpicking about the word “immediate” on the packaging, which is already being phased out anyway. Marketplace asked unbiased experts to look at the clinical trials behind COLD-FX and the experts concluded there is no evidence it offers immediate relief, as the packaging claims. The experts also say there’s scant evidence that COLD-FX decreases the duration of the common cold. It only reduces your risk of getting a cold by 15%, if you take it every day for two to six months. This is interesting. Except what about all the happy customers? Are we all suggestible dupes?

When presented with Marketplace’s findings, former COLD-FX spokesperson Don Cherry didn’t budge. He’s a believer, based on personal experience. Sinus Sister doesn’t scoff at the science, like Cherry, but I’m not willing to quibble over the wording on the package. Does COLD-FX cause “immediate relief”? Of course not. Did you expect it to? What it offers me, personally, is assured relief, soon. If that’s snake oil, I’ll take another bottle, please. But thank goodness the crack team at Marketplace caught up with COLD-FX, before we all….felt better?

Accusing COLD-FX of making false claims to provide “immediate relief” is like:

1) accusing the Concord of not getting you to Paris fast enough.

2) accusing your dentist of having a messy waiting room when you fail to nail her for malpractice.

3) accusing a tried-and-true cold remedy of being snake oil despite the fact that it works for millions of Canadians.

Oil of Oregano: Hold Your Nose,Think of England as it Fixes Your Sore Throat

January 13, 2012  |  Drug Reviews  |  , ,  |  1 Comment

Nobody buys it for the flavour

Things that might taste better than Oil of Oregano:

1) Band-Aides

2) Roadkill

3) Chernobyl

So, why does Sinus Sister spend a small fortune on little bottles of this fowl tincture? Because it works! Germs and bacteria in her throat are decimated with oregano’s scorch-and-burn powers. She can feel it clear-cutting its way down her throat, smiting infection.

Recently, I got a 50 ml bottle of Hedd Wyn’s Wild Oil of Oregano for $35, on sale from $60—almost half price (If you’re flush with cash, you can get it directly from Hedd Wyn). While laying out that kind of “tin”, as they say on Breaking Bad, I like to read up on the science to justify the purchase. I learned oil of oregano is anti viral, anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti parasitic, anti oxidant, and anti inflammatory. That’s six reasons to keep it close. It works because of the carvacrol, a natural phenol that contains powerful anti-microbial activity. Flavonoids provide natural antiseptic properties, and terpenes (long chain hydrocarbons) are natural anti-inflammatory agents. It also helps re-balance your body after a nasty course of antibiotics.

Winner of the Worst-Tasting Must-Have Winter Health Item: Oil or Oregano

Rating: ★★★★½ 

COLD-FX: How 27 Little Pills Saved Christmas

January 11, 2012  |  Drug Reviews  |   |  1 Comment

Rating: ★★★★½ 

What did Sinus Sister get for Christmas? Traumatized. A parade of house guests and soirees left me vulnerable to everyone’s head cold—or, what I like to call The Party Plague. Refusing to shake hands seemed too rude, so I gave preemptive hugs, head turned sideways. The dodge worked, mostly. But around midnight on December 25th, I felt the germs rising. Hotter. Higher….HELP!

Dumping my Christmas stocking on the bed, I found my last hope: an econo-sized bottle of COLD-FX. Santa knew to get me Extra Strength. He also knew to get me hand sanitizer (travel size), Russell Stover chocolates and a cashmere sweater.

“If it works for the NHL, it’ll work for me,” I thought, gulping down three COLD-FX. The company doesn’t claim COLD-FX will cure you, but it claims to decrease the severity and length of your cold. There’s a regime to follow: the first day you feel crappy, take three capsules twice a day; the second day, take two capsules twice a day; the third day, take one capsule twice a day. That’s what the lawyers let them print it, so it’s safe. But my immune system is so rickety, that I gulped down nine pills a day for three days….and felt marvelous. Just marvelous. Sinus Sister would be the first to cry foul if COLD-FX was an expensive placebo. Not so. Maybe it only works for weaklings like me, but then why does it work for Marc Messier…

#1 Stocking Stuffer: Cold-EEZE Oral Spray, Breaking Bad and Walt White Explains Zincum Gluconicum

Walt White explains Zincum Gluconicum


WALT WHITE, a chemistry teacher and cancer-ridden drug lord, watches SINUS SISTER, who wears her FUR HAT indoors. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS cannot improve the shabby diner where they sit, with a PAPER BAG on the table between them.

SINUS SISTER sneezes. She takes a bottle of COLD-EEZE from the FUR MUFF in her lap and holds it up to her ruby-red LIPS.


What’s that crap you’re spraying in your mouth?



It’s not crap. It’s Cold-Eeze. Mint flavour.


It’s probably just candy. Let me see.

SINUS SISTER whips the bottle of COLD-EEZE at WALT, so he can read the ingredients.


No, no, I stand corrected. There’s an active ingredient in here. Zincum Glyconicum.


What’s that?


Zinc, you moron. Didn’t you just learn about zinc last week?

SINUS SISTER pulls a GUN from the FUR MUFF on her lap. She points it as WALT.


You can talk to Jesse that way, but not to me. EXPLAIN ZINC.

WALT looks at the CANADA DRY CLOCK and swallows.


We don’t have time for this.


No, we don’t have time for me to have a bad cold during the Christmas rush.

He sighs, shrugs in agreement, and reads the BOTTLE more closely. SINUS SISTER puts away her gun.


Zincum Gluconicum is a form of zinc bound to a substance which makes for better absorption.


So it works?


Hang on. It recommends two sprays a day. That’s about 26 mg.


That’s enough.


 Studies have shown that zinc can reduce cold symptoms drastically…


…if you take it fast enough. Which I did. Two sprays last night.




Steady and holding, instead of full-on sick .


So, why are you asking me?


You’re  Heisenberg.

SINUS SISTER slides the PAPER BAG toward WALT. He tucks it into his coat.


Are you going to tell me what’s in there?


Stocking stuffers for the crew.

Nature’s Dynamite for Stuffy Noses: Nasodren Review

November 29, 2011  |  Drug Reviews  |  , , , ,  |  32 Comments

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Spray and pray. That’s the cycle. My unreconstructed addiction to nasal sprays is a choice. I choose to risk the rebound effect, rather then breathe through my mouth like a knuckle dragger. Go ahead and tell me I have a problem. Just try it. This little addiction harms nobody, except me, when I get a bad batch and end up with boomerang blockage.

“It’s worth the risk,” I said, grabbing a reviewer’s sample of Nasodren. Immediately, I liked it because the packaging has braille. Blind people have bad sinuses, and every other condition, too. Next, I like the way the web site tells me things in laymen’s terms:

  • Nasodren® is a natural product that does not contain hormones or preservatives (whatever)
  • Nasodren® is a lyophilized natural extract of cyclamen europaeum L (okay, I can look that up)
  • Nasodren® has only a local effect, which means it is not absorbed into the blood stream and does not cause residual irritation of the mucous membranes (low boomerang risk)
    Okay, so it won’t corrode my sinuses. According to Google, cyclamen europaeum L is a much-loved hippie herb used for what they used to call “women’s troubles” and an assortment of mucous issues. That’s me! The spray requires some assembly, which isn’t a problem so much as it’s a problem when my nose is dripping—onto the  instructions. But the assembly is easy and quick—mixing water with the powdered herb—so I’m not terribly annoyed. As directed, I resist the urge to throw my head back and sniff while activating the pump. Instead, I keep the drama low and limit myself to one squirt per nostril….And that’s enough! It triggered a series of violent sneezes… then some urgent nose-blowing, following by….inhale…AIR FLOW. There was no discernible boomerang blockage after a few days use and no nasty taste in my mouth, like some sprays. Nasodren is a keeper. More specifically, it’s a keeper-in-the-fridge, where it needs to be stored. I guess I won’t be hoarding it my purse, after all, for guilty squirts in back alleys.

Is There a New Hay Fever Vaccine on the Horizon?

Sinus Sister wants a shot in the arm

The cavalry is coming! There’s a new hay fever vaccine! Roll up your sleeves! My hopes, if not my money, are on a U.K.-based company called Circassia Ltd. They fight the good fight, trying to help us sad-sack sneezers with cats, grass, mite and pollen allergies. There are, of course, conspiracy nuts who saw The Constant Gardener and now think Pharma is incapable of fighting the good fight, but let’s not be ridiculous.

Why We’re Excited: Circassia announced that results from the phase II trail of their ToleroMune hay fever vaccine have shown significant improvement in participants’ allergy signs and symptoms compared to the placebo-takers. And the vaccine was well tolerated! Yippee!

What Happened: The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II investigation enrolled 50 individuals in Quebec, Canada, who suffer from hay fever. (Hello! Why didn’t anyone call Sinus Sister?) During the study participants received four doses from one of five different treatment regimens over a period of 12 weeks. After 5 weeks, the researchers tested participants’ skin and eye responses to grass pollen. The results revealed that the ToleroMune vaccine reduced allergic symptoms in participants’ eyes by up to 30% more than those taking placebo. Furthermore, the treatment improved early skin reactions by up to 54% and late skin reactions by up to 19% more than those on placebo.

What’s Next: The final phase II trial of Circassia’s hay fever vaccine, consisting of 280 participants is currently underway in Kingston, Ontario. The trial will evaluate the efficacy of the ToleroMune T-cell vaccine at enhancing individuals’ nasal symptoms and eye responses when grass pollen is added to an exposure chamber. Fingers’ crossed!!!

Why it Might Actually Work: Circassia’s T-cell vaccine technology draws on well-established synthetic chemistry rather than the techniques for purifying whole allergens used by many immunotherapies, so Circassia has been able to establish the scale-up and production processes required to meet modern regulatory standards for pharmaceutical products.

Why We have a Crush on Steve Harris, CEO at Circassia: Because he said, Our clinical data show that Circassia’s T-cell vaccines have the potential to revolutionize allergy therapy! (Italics, mine)

Steve, don`t toy with me.

The Alchemist’s Concert: Arcade Fire and Silver Sinus Review

September 23, 2011  |  Drug Reviews  |  , ,  |  No Comments

Sinus Sister braves crowds and skin discoloration

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Crowds make me nervous. Especially a crowd of 100,000 twentysomethings at a free, outdoor concert. That was the situation last night, when Arcade Fire threw a free concert during Pop Montreal festival. As a big admirer of Arcade Fire’s debut album, Funeral, I would not stay home—despite a pounding sinus headache, if not a budding infection. According to the weather network, more Death Eaters were expected in the sky to drop the barometric pressure and rip open my skull.

BUT ARCADE FIRE WAS COMING! In the throws of a sinus meldown, I tore the plastic off the Silver Sinus bottle and admired its slick blue label. Then I stopped. What am I putting up my nose? One “serving” consists of 20 sprays, the recommended daily dose, and 20 sprays contains 10 ppms of silver. That meant nothing to me. Enter Google. In 1999 the FDA issued a ruling that no products containing Colloidal Silver are recognized as safe and effective for treating any kind of disease or condition (Well, who knows how corrupt the FDA is, so that was no deterrent). What caught my attention was an article about a woman who turned blue from a silver-based nose spray. Then there was the YouTube video about the guy who drank silver and now looks like a blue Santa Claus. Over time, Colloidal Silver builds up in the tissues of the body and can produce argyria—a permanent bluish discoloration of the body. It’s rare, but it’s possible. It’s equally possible that this might be Arcade Fire’s last outdoor free concert. What to do?

Assuming that a one-time dose of 10 ppm of silver wouldn’t turn me blue, I took the plunge. Squirt. Wait. Squirting Silver Sinus didn’t cause a general nasal commotion, like Allergy Buster. I guess the pepper extract in Allergy Buster is more hardcore than the silver in Silver Sinus. But  the silver didn’t do much of anything. I re-squirted. A pleasant sensation spread, as a moist cloud of air soothed my dry nose… Nice. Then it was over. I checked the mirror. No blue skin…but not much lasting sinus relief, either. Should I have expected Silver Sinus to work instantaneously? If it takes a few days to work, would those days turn my pink Irish skin blue? Or is that exactly what Big Pharma wants me to fear? I slipped Silver Sinus into my pocket and went to the concert, where any nose-related grief was forgotten for a few hours. Was that the work of the silver nose spray or the effect of 100,000 people singing “Wake Up Together”, live? Hard to tell. Sinus Sister wants to hear about your experience with Silver Sinus….

Best Pollen Barrier: HayMax

September 9, 2011  |  Drug Reviews  |  , ,  |  2 Comments

Sinus Sister takes precautions at an outdoor wedding


“It’s a farm!” squealed Sinus Sister, spying the barn from the parking lot. “Maybe there’s a pony and baby goats!”

Handsome Manling looked surprised by my outburst. Eyebrow cocked, he asked. “Who are you?  Are you not allergic to animals and grass?” He was right. Horses excite city girls—even city girls who were sent home from Equestrian Camp with a refund. A feeling of dread descended. Where there’s a barn, there’s hay. Where there’s hay….ACHOOOO!

Problem: Outdoor country wedding.

Solution: Stash of Medication.

Two days earlier: Ripping open a padded envelope from England, Sinus Sister said a silent “thank you” to the British postal system. They delivered—just in time for the wedding. Ta. The envelope contained a three-pack of HayMax, a product not yet sold in Canada.  It was my safeguard against sneezing through the “I do’s”….if it works. A little tub of Lavender HayMax went directly into my purse, ready for the wedding. The accompanying pamphlet explained that HayMax is a pollen barrier made of organic beeswax (sounds like birth control during The Depression) essential oil, aloe vera leaf juice powder and sunflower oil. It traps pollen before it gets up your nose. It’s non-drowsy and drug free, although neither of those things are deal breakers. You don’t snort or swallow it; it’s applied “sparingly” around the base of each nostril. With my fingers? So be it. Back in the car park before the wedding, I grabbed the HayMax from my purse and yanked the rear-view mirror into a more useful angle. Handsome Manling was socializing outside, shaking hands with other guests as they arrived. In the mirror, I zeroed in on my nostrils and raised a finger full of HayMax. How much, exactly, do I apply? What’s “sparingly”? If it’s a barrier method, like birth control, do I have to plug up the entire nostril? Probably not.

Pollen isn’t as sneaky as sperm.

While sperm needs to be completely blocked from the end zone, pollen can be lured over to the sidelines. Instinctively, I dabbed on the HayMax like Vicks VapoRub. Thankfully, it didn’t shine or wreck my makeup. Rimmed with HayMax, my nose was ready for the Big Day….First, to the barn!

Several hours and four drinks after the ceremony—a blessedly sneeze-free event on the lawn—the active ingredients started to ware off. [Achoo!] Handsome Manling gave me a knowing look. It was time to reapply. In the bathroom, I found a dry corner of the sink to rest the HayMax. Bent over, finger raised to nose, I froze in a guilty rictus. The Maid of Honour had walked in, stopping to process the scene.  Her face asked two things: 1) what was I putting up my nose? 2) which witless guest had invited me? I did not like the implied critique of Handsome Manling. A violent itch sent my nose into a spasm. She saw it as proof positive of my degeneracy. Would I set her straight? No. She could think what she wanted. What I put up my nose is between me and the British postal service.

Allergy Buster Review

August 30, 2011  |  Drug Reviews  |   |  No Comments

Sinus Sister sprays and prays


“NON-HABIT FORMING”,  promises the box. We’ll see about thatAllergy Buster, a nose spray, is 100% natural and chemical free. You may recall that I tend to view 100% natural products as 100% lame. Yet, I want to kick an addiction to my own kind of nose candy (over-the-counter sprays) and try some alternatives.

Allergy Buster claims to provide fast relief from the most annoying allergy symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, sinus pressure and sinus headaches. That’s a tall order. Opening the box, I was immediately impressed with the packaging—guard on the spray top, see-through cap. Smart.

Scanning the active ingredients, I found the money shot: Capsicum 4x (capsaicin), Eucalyptus globulus TINC (eucalyptol), Urtica dioica TINC (nettle). Wait a minute. Capsicum? That’s a chili pepper. Sure enough, the box has a drawing of a red chili pepper, as seen in menus. Consider us warned. Taking the plunge, I inserted the plastic tip and gave the bottle a big spray…On contact, I felt a reaction. It didn’t hurt or burn so much as awaken the area—like an air raid siren. My sinuses were on high alert, deciding what to do with the capsicum invasion. They shifted and heaved, voicing their concern. After about three minutes, they settled, but remained stubbornly clogged. A second blast of Allergy Buster had the same result. After seven days, I gave up.

Some people swear by capsicum-based cures. There is a new study published in the August 2011 issue of The Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, showing that the heat from peppers in Sinus Buster (and, by extension, Allergy Buster) resulted in a “significant improvement” in a randomized, double-blind study of 41 people over two weeks, with no rebound.  That’s impressive.

Allergy Buster may be fine for civilians with average sinus woes, but I suspect my sinuses require pharma-grade dynamite.