Did you know how important it is to read the instruction leaflet that comes inside your medication package? All prescription medication comes with a leaflet insert. This leaflet explains everything you need to know about your medications, everything from the ingredients, dosage instructions, possible side effects and drug interactions. Most of the time the information is expected and sometimes the information is unexpected. For example, the fact that grapefruit is quite often listed as a drug interaction!
Many people read the ingredients and dosage instructions but tend to ignore the rest of the leaflet. As pharmacists, we can’t stress how important this is. It’s a question of knowledge and safety. Sometimes the information on these leaflets change so it’s important to read it every time you get a new packet of the medication to make sure that it’s not been updated.
Most of the time the side effects will not happen to you but it’s good to know if you start feeling a specific symptom after you take your prescription medication that it could be a reaction to the medication. We have had customers who have suddenly experienced reactions even though they have taken the medication before. They know the possible side effects of the medication they were taking so consulted with their doctor immediately and sorted it out. Always make sure you know the possible side effects listed in the leaflet insert.
Drug interactions are perhaps the most important section to read carefully. Often different classes of drugs can react against each other causing the drugs to become less effective. It’s also possible for two specific drugs to interact and cause harm to your body. This is also the case with specific foods. Grapefruit is one such food.
Many people eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit on a regular basis as it healthy. Grapefruits are a powerful antioxidant filled with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Many dietitians advice eating grapefruits can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, blood pressure and diabetes. It’s definitely a very popular diet food. It helps to aid digestion as well as increase metabolism.
So why do many drugs list grapefruit as a food in the drug interactions section of the leaflet insert? Grapefruit has a big enzyme building ability and can past faster and more easily into the blood stream compared to other foods. High levels can therefore be dangerous for medications. It can increase the medication flow into the bloodstream. The most common grapefruit drug interactions include medications in the class of statins for high cholesterol, calcium blockers for blood pressure and psychiatric medications.
According to the Harvard medical school here is what happens:
“Doctors are not sure which of the hundreds of chemicals in grapefruit are responsible. The leading candidate is furanocoumarin… it binds to an enzyme in your intestinal tract known as CYP3A4, which reduces the absorption of certain medications. When grapefruit juice blocks the enzyme, it’s easier for the medication to pass from your gut to your bloodstream. Blood levels will rise faster and higher than normal, and in some cases the abnormally high levels can be dangerous.”
A drug that is over productive is just as bad for your body as a drug that is not doing its job properly or is not achieving what it needs.
Let’s take statins, prescribed for high cholesterol, as an example. Lipitor (Atorvastatin), Zocor (Simvastatin) and Mevacor (Lovastatin) are all affected by the grapefruit interaction. You should not consume grapefruit when taking these medications. Not all cholesterol lowering drugs interact badly with grapefruit though. If you are a real grapefruit lover you can ask for a prescription medication that allows you to continue eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice. Lescol, Pravachol and Crestor have little or no interaction with grapefruit but do the same job. Depending on your situation you might be able to take one of these instead.
Attached is a list of the main prescription medications to look out for when it comes to drug interactions with grapefruit.
If you have any questions about drug interactions feel free to contact the pharmacists at IsraelPharm.com.