Many commonly prescribed drugs have potentially fatal side effects
when mixed with other medications, over-the-counter drugs,
supplements and even foods. This is true for the widely used
cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, which can be deadly
when mixed with grapefruit juice. These medications include
atorvastatin, simvastatin, lovastatin and fluvastatin.
people don't know that something as common as drinking grapefruit
juice when taking statins can increase the risk of muscle pain and
have serious adverse side effects that can be life-threatening,"
says Ed Dannemiller, specialist pharmacist in the Express Scripts
Cardiovascular Therapeutic Resource Center. "The juice can
substantially raise the concentration of statins in the body and
make them much more potent."
As a specialist pharmacist, Dannemiller is one of a team of
experts who are specifically trained to help patients with heart
disease understand everything they need to know about their
medications, including how their diet and other medications they
take may affect their health. The team also works closely with
physicians to prevent potential problems that medications may pose
to their patients.
"Another popular drug, warfarin, which is a blood thinner that
helps prevent heart attack and stroke, can react harmfully with a
number of commonly used products," he says. "When warfarin is mixed
with antidepressants, alcohol, ibuprofen or aspirin, and even herbal
products like gingko biloba or garlic, patients may be at risk of
If you are one of the millions of Americans being treated for one
of these common conditions, Dannemiller offers these tips to help
prevent medication interactions.
Check with your
doctor or pharmacist to find out what foods, medications and
supplements should be avoided when taking a medication. Some
combinations cause bad reactions by making the drug more potent,
while others can make the medication less effective.
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Read the fine
print: Always read the caution information provided in the
medication package, and make sure you understand how and when to
take your medications. Instructions such as taking your dose
with food or on an empty stomach should not be overlooked. Also,
taking too much or too little of a drug can significantly affect
how well the drug works.
Make sure your physicians know all the other
medications and supplements you're taking, such as herbal
remedies and over-the-counter products, including vitamins,
since some interactions can cause life-threatening side effects.
Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor
is essential for ensuring that they'll effectively treat your
condition. Don't ever stop taking your medications or simply use
them "when needed" without talking to your physician or
specialist pharmacist. Even if you have no apparent symptoms,
you may still be at risk. For example, blood pressure can reach
dangerous levels, yet a patient may not be aware of any of the
warning signs. Remember, just because you don't notice any
symptoms doesn't mean that your disease is under control.
For more information and additional ways you can avoid harmful
drug interactions, visit Express Scripts' Healthcare Insights blog