New study finds concurrent use of prescription drugs and dietary supplements could pose health risks

September 25, 2018, University of Hertfordshire
Credit: University of Hertfordshire

A new University of Hertfordshire study found that using certain over-the-counter herbal medicines and dietary supplements alongside prescription drugs could pose serious health risks, especially amongst older adults.

This is the first UK study among in almost 15 years on the concurrent use of , herbal medicines and . Led by Taofikat Agbabiaka, Ph.D. Researcher at the University of Hertfordshire working in patient safety, the study reveals that the health consequences of these interactions include alterations in the concentration or effects of drugs such as blood pressure treatments, statins, and aspirin, and the most hazardous outcomes are related to increased blood glucose concentration, risk of bleeding, and reducing the effectiveness of a prescription drug.

In this study, a third of the 149 participants (155 in total were asked but six were rejected as they didn't include information on their medication) aged 65 and over used herbal medicines and dietary supplements bought over the counter, by self-prescription, which are not disclosed to healthcare practitioners. 43 percent of these patients are female compared with 23 percent male. The study also found that some patients were taking as many as eight different alternative medicines and supplements. They are particularly at risk due to co-morbidities, metabolic changes and the body's reduced ability to absorb prescription drugs associated with ageing.

Substances with potential drug interaction risks include common remedies such as evening primrose oil, St John's wort, and ginkgo. Supplements with potential interactions include glucosamine and Omega3 fish oil.

Healthcare professionals should routinely ask about use of other medications

Taofikat Agbabiaka said: "The potential risk of interactions with certain combinations of prescription drugs, and dietary supplements shows the need for healthcare professionals to routinely ask questions regarding the use of other medications that are not prescribed.

"This would help to initiate conversations about wider herbal and dietary supplement use and their possible interactions to help increase ."

This study is backed by a recent systematic review, also led by Taofikat, which established that concurrent use of prescription drugs with herbal remedies and dietary supplements is substantial among older adults, with potential interactions from some common herb–drug combinations such as garlic–aspirin and ginseng–warfarin.

The paper, "Prevalence of drug-herb and - interactions in older adults: a cross sectional survey," is published by the British Journal of General Practice.

Explore further: Use of alternative medicines has doubled among kids, especially teens

More information: Taofikat B Agbabiaka et al. Prevalence of drug–herb and drug–supplement interactions in older adults: a cross-sectional survey, British Journal of General Practice (2018). DOI: 10.3399/bjgp18X699101

Related Stories

Use of alternative medicines has doubled among kids, especially teens

June 18, 2018
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that since 2003, the use of alternative medicines, such as herbal products and nutraceuticals, among children has doubled. The University of Illinois at Chicago researchers who ...

Lack of communication puts older adults at risk of clashes between their medicines

November 29, 2017
Most older Americans take multiple medicines every day. But a new poll suggests they don't get - or seek - enough help to make sure those medicines actually mix safely.

Home remedies: Can herbs and supplements enhance fertility?

September 12, 2018
My husband and I have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. I've seen many ads for fertility herbs and supplements. Do they work?

Herbal supplements may cause dangerous drug interactions in orthopaedic surgery patients

October 11, 2011
Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments such as herbal supplements have become increasingly popular in the United States, especially among older patients and those with chronic pain. However, many of these ...

FDA: Supplements, meds can be dangerous mix

November 4, 2014
(HealthDay)—Taking vitamins or other dietary supplements along with medication can be dangerous, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

More elderly using dangerous drug combinations

March 21, 2016
One in six older adults now regularly use potentially deadly combinations of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements—a two-fold increase over a five-year period, according to new research at ...

Recommended for you

Early physical therapy can reduce risk, amount of long-term opioid use, study finds

December 14, 2018
Patients who underwent physical therapy soon after being diagnosed with pain in the shoulder, neck, low back or knee were approximately 7 to 16 percent less likely to use opioids in the subsequent months, according to a new ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Early postpartum opioids linked with persistent usage

December 14, 2018
Vanderbilt researchers have published findings indicating that regardless of whether a woman delivers a child by cesarean section or by vaginal birth, if they fill prescriptions for opioid pain medications early in the postpartum ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anoym275346n
not rated yet Sep 25, 2018
I was beginning to have high blood pressure issues on May 18th, 2017. When my doctor increased my meds a second time, I decided to take things seriously. With a heart attack, I would either die, or not. But a stroke would be a whole different story I wanted to avoid. It was my good fortune I found Mary's blood pressure treatment story (google " How I Helped My Sister Cure the Hypertension " ). It is a quick read and gives very simple explanations for what is needed to drop your BP. I am amazed at how easy it was to do the program and how quickly I got results. In just two weeks I got my BP to slightly below normal and even lost a few pounds. In a follow-up visit my doctor reduced my meds and when I report the latest data, she will probably reduce my meds even further. Written by a nutritionist, Blood Pressure Down gives common sense details I needed to know and it turns out I actually like what I'm supposed to eat. I don't feel as if I made major changes as much as fine tuning my die

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.