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Supplements | Supplements and Prescription Drugs Interactions

Supplements and Prescription Drugs Interactions

Certain dietary supplements may interact with prescription drugs—however, the risk that interactions are serious and harmful is quite low, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2004;164:630–6).

About 50% of Americans take one or more dietary supplements including vitamins, minerals, herbal preparations, and homeopathic remedies. In 1997, 15 million Americans took prescription medications at the same time that they were taking herbal remedies or high-dose vitamins. Many of these people did not tell their healthcare providers about their supplement use, raising questions about the safety of using nutritional supplements and prescription drugs at the same time.

In the new study, 458 military veterans taking prescription medications were surveyed about their use of dietary supplements. Most of the participants were men; the average age was 61 years old. Almost half of the participants took one or more dietary supplements per day; vitamins, minerals, garlic, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and ginseng were the most commonly used. Based on the prescription drugs and supplements that the participants were taking, the authors identified potential supplement–drug interactions from currently available medical literature; actual supplement–drug interactions among the participants were not assessed. The interactions were categorized as either documented (reported in published studies to have occurred) or theoretical (based on what is known about the actions of the drugs and supplements), and either “severe” or “not severe.” Documented interactions were further broken down into those that were likely (probable) or possible, based on the number of previously reported cases.

Potential interactions between prescription drugs and dietary supplements were found in 45% of those people who were taking prescription drugs and supplements concurrently. Most of the potential interactions were found between prescription drugs and ginseng, garlic, gingko (Gingko biloba), and coenzyme Q10. Few of these potential interactions have been documented by even one case report, and most of them would likely be of minor severity, if they actually did occur. Only 2.5% of the participants were actually at high risk for having a severe supplement–drug interaction. This is comparable to the incidence of severe drug–drug interactions.

The results of this study should remind us that, while nutritional supplements and herbs are generally quite safe, their potential to interact with prescription medications should always be considered. People taking prescription drugs should consult a knowledgeable practitioner to learn which dietary supplements can safely be taken with their medicines.

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.

Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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