October 18, 2011

Dangerous Conflicts Between Rx Drugs and Herbal Meds

Many people are using complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments such as herbal supplements for chronic pain. This is an area where patients need to use extra caution. Some of the prescription medications and herbal medications can have very serious and potentially harmful side effects. This is a must for older patients as they do not realize how serious these side effects can be.

I will give the authors of this notice credit for seemingly having the right information and presenting it as facts instead of calling for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate. To get to the heart of their discussion I will list the medications that can have severe side effects when combined with prescription medications that are often involved when someone is having back surgery (orthopaedic surgery).

Examples of popular herbal supplements that are commonly used and can have serious side effects if combined with prescription medications are:

“Feverfew (used for migraine prevention), ginger, cranberry, St. John's Wort and ginseng can interact with the anti-clotting drug warfarin;
Feverfew, ginger, and gingko can interact with aspirin;
Garlic can interfere with anti-clotting medications and the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine (prevents transplant rejection);
Valerian (used as a sedative) can intensify anesthetics; and
St. John's Wort can interact with immunosuppressive drugs and potentially lead to transplant rejection.”

These herbal products that are marketed for osteoarthritis also can pose serious risks when combined with prescription medications:

“Glucosamine, chondroitin and flavocoxid can affect clotting agents;
Black cohosh can interact with the cancer drug tamoxifen; and
Cat's claw can interact with clotting agents, blood pressure medications and cyclosporine.”

This is why we need to tell our doctors what herbal supplements we are taking. At least the authors are advising surgeons to check this when scheduling patients for skeletal surgery and other procedures that might involve the above list. More of the problem herbal supplements should have been mentioned.

“Most surgery-related side effects can be avoided by stopping the CAM product at least one to two weeks prior to surgery and during the postoperative period while prescription medications such as blood thinners or antibiotics are being used. The problem arises when physicians do not know that a patient is using a CAM product. Herbal supplements can have a negative impact on patients both before and following surgery, and may interact with conventional medicines used to manage chronic conditions."

“Orthopaedic surgeons should have an understanding of the potential side effects of some of the most common CAM products used by their patients, and be able to guide them in suspending use prior to surgery. To help ensure physicians are aware of the products their patients may be using, it is recommended including CAM product-use questions on health/medical assessment forms to encourage patient disclosure.”

Read the article here, and please heed the warning.

No comments: