Study Warns About Health Risks in Using Prescription Drugs With Dietary Supplements

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According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, mixing some herbal medicines and dietary supplements with prescription drugs is a health risk many people expose themselves to.

Taofikat Agbabiaka, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Hertfordshire, who led the study, shows that there are many consequences in combining prescription drugs with herbal medicines or dietary supplements. Some of the over the counter supplements interfere with the medication, making them less concentrated or changing their effects altogether. For example, blood pressure treatments, statins, and aspirin saw such a change, but there were severe outcomes like the risk of bleeding, or increased blood glucose concentration.

The study had 149 participants of ages 65 and older (43% female, 23% male). They used herbal medicines and dietary supplements not prescribed by their healthcare practitioners.

Results showed that some patients took an enormous amount of alternative medicines and supplements – eight different types. They had an increased risk of metabolic changes, and their body couldn’t properly absorb the prescription drugs because of the over the counter self-prescribed medicine.

Common remedies like primrose oil, St John’s wort, and ginkgo can interact with prescription drugs. Supplements like glucosamine and Omega3 fish oil also interact with prescribed medicine.

Doctors Must Ask Patients About Other Treatments They Take

Doctors should always ask their patients if they take other treatments, herbal remedies or supplements, explains Taofikat Agbabiaka:

“This would help to initiate conversations about wider herbal and dietary supplement use and their possible interactions to help increase patient safety.”

The study can be found in the British Journal of General Practice, titled “Prevalence of drug-herb and drug-supplement interactions in older adults: a cross sectional survey.”

Taofikat previously led a systematic review, in which he found that older adults were more likely to use herbal remedies and dietary supplements at the same time as they were using prescription drugs. That review showed that combinations of herbal medicine and drugs – such as garlic–aspirin, and ginseng–warfarin, had potential interactions.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere