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Grapefruit Can Turn Some Medications Into Deadly Potions

There are many people who at least occasionally eat a grapefruit slice or drink grapefruit juice with their breakfast. It grapefruit juice is in a glass on their breakfast table, they may even use it to wash down morning medication for diabetes, high blood pressure or other maladies. What many were surprised to recently learn was that grapefruit juice, based on its chemical composition, can result in otherwise beneficial medications being altered in terms of how they work in the human body, and turn what was intended to be an aid to health into something harmful or even deadly.

A recent article in a medical association journal detailed how just in the last four years alone, the number of prescription medications known to result in harmful side effects when mixed with grapefruit has actually doubled. What most consumers don’t realize is that they may be setting themselves up for a drug overdose of usually benign medication when they use grapefruit juice to was down a pill.

Grapefruit contains chemicals called furanocoumins. These chemicals act on the human digestive tract to turn off the functioning of an enzyme present in the liver and small intestine which is absolutely essential to breaking down toxins and approximately half of all prescription medication. This can result in medication being in a higher concentration in the bloodstream and remaining in the body longer than it otherwise would, and can result in an overdose.

In some instances, the magnification involved is extreme and swallowing one pill with a glass of grapefruit juice can have the same impact as taking as many as five pills accompanied by a glass of water.

The medical association journal article researches identified 85 common medications that can interact with grapefruit juice in harmful ways. Included on that list were a number of antibiotics commonly used to fight infection, as well as drugs given to suppress the immune system and combat tissue rejection in patients undergoing organ transplants, and cholesterol fighting drugs like Lipitor.

The ensuing side effects can range from minor dizziness or other relatively easily coped with ones to more serious difficulties including respiratory difficulties, an irregular heartbeat, or gastrointestinal bleeding. In the most extreme cases, the result can be death.

Of the 5 drugs that interact with grapefruit juice in a known negative way, 43 were found to result in the more serious side effects, a number that has increased from the 17 medications identified as doing so four years ago.

In some instances, the impact can be avoided by using an alternative medication, but in some instances, none exists. Among the medications involved are some used to treat cancer, thin the blood, or serve as an antipsychotic drug.

The primary ingredient used in marmalade, Seville oranges, can have the same impact as grapefruit juice with some medications, as can lime juice or pomelos, because they have the same disruptive chemicals in them.

Given the severity of the possible consequences, doctors should carefully advise patients if their medications should not be taken with grapefruit or lime juice, etc., and the medications themselves perhaps should bear prominent warning labels to prevent misuse that can lead to unintended consequences. Which may be interpreted at medical malpractice.

Original URL: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/27/166012281/a-deadly-cocktail-some-medications-don-t-mix-well-with-grapefruit