How Dietary Supplements Interact with Prescription Drugs

An estimated 68% of U.S. adults take OTC dietary supplements, but research shows these products may do more harm than good. Echinacea, grape seed extract, and St. John’s Wort are just a few that studies have found to affect the performance of prescription drugs. Evidence suggests that some supplements block enzymes from breaking down a prescription drug and evacuating it from the body, potentially creating toxic levels of medication and a risk of overdose. Others may accelerate the pace of breakdown and eliminate a drug too quickly to have an effect—essentially rendering it useless. Most are safe in small quantities and only trigger adverse effects when taken at concentrated levels, but the supplement industry is under no mandate to investigate and report potentially negative interactions with prescription medications. The highest-risk users of herbal products are surgical patients; people being treated for cancer; and patients who take blood thinners. Researchers stress the importance of health care providers inquiring about supplement use when documenting medical history- information that many people fail to disclose. They also recommend that, in lieu of supplements, patients simply consume more foods that are rich in a desired substance. (Source: Wall Street Journal, 02/29/16).