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

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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

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