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

First ever meta-analysis on Indian lead exposure reveals link to devastating intellectual disability in children

October 12, 2018
New Macquarie University research has revealed the devastating disease burden associated with elevated blood lead levels in India. The results of the first ever meta-analysis of Indian blood lead levels found the burden of ...

The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

October 12, 2018
If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice.

Sit-stand office desks cut daily sitting time and appear to boost job performance

October 11, 2018
Sit-stand workstations that allow employees to stand, as well as sit, while working on a computer reduce daily sitting time and appear to have a positive impact on job performance and psychological health, finds a trial published ...

Molecular link between body weight, early puberty identified

October 11, 2018
Becoming overweight at a young age can trigger a molecular chain reaction that leads some girls to experience puberty early, according to new research published in Nature Communications.

Hearing and visual aids linked to slower age-related memory loss

October 11, 2018
Hearing aids and cataract surgery are strongly linked to a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline, according to new research by University of Manchester academics.

Hundreds of patients with undiagnosed diseases find answers, study reports

October 10, 2018
More than 100 patients afflicted by mysterious illnesses have been diagnosed through a network of detective-doctors who investigate unidentified diseases, reports a study conducted by scientists at the Stanford University ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.