How Grapefruit Can Cause Deadly Drug Interactions

How Grapefruit Can Cause Deadly Drug Interactions

Forbidden fruit: stay away from this otherwise healthy breakfast favorite if you’re on certain medications, and keep in the clear.

You wouldn’t normally associate the juicy grapefruit sitting on the breakfast table with sudden death. If you’re taking prescription medication, you may see things in a different light, though.

Grapefruit is a curious food that contains active ingredients called furanocoumarins. These frisky fellows irreversibly block the enzyme in your body that metabolizes some medications. The result is too much of the drug you’re taking can stay in your blood.

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When this happens, you essentially overdose on the medication.

Just how bad is it? If you eat or drink grapefruit or its juice even hours before taking a medication, it could still affect you. Even if you drink the juice at breakfast and then take your medication after dinner, you could experience a bad interaction.

To date, CBC.ca in Canada reports there are many different medications on the market that can have this potentially deadly effect. And the number is consistently growing.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of prescription drugs that interact badly with grapefruit juice grew from 17 to 44, and that number has now almost doubled to total 85.

Some medications interact with grapefruit juice in a milder way, but others have serious side effects.

These can include sudden death, gastrointestinal bleeding, respiratory and kidney failure and bone marrow suppression.

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What should you avoid? Experts say that eating a whole grapefruit or drinking 200 mL of the juice can cause the interaction. So can consuming certain other citrus fruits including Seville oranges, which are often used to make marmalade, and eating or drinking pomelos and their juice, as well as limes.

According to the FDA, the following types of medications can interact negatively with grapefruit and the fruits listed above:

  • Some statin drugs to lower cholesterol, such as Zocor (simvastatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin).

  • Some drugs that treat high blood pressure, such as Procardia and Adalat CC (both nifedipine).

  • Some organ-transplant rejection drugs, such as Sandimmune and Neoral (both cyclosporine).

  • Some anti-anxiety drugs, such as buspirone.

  • Some corticosteroids that treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, such as Entocort EC and Uceris (both budesonide).

  • Some drugs that treat abnormal heart rhythms, such as Pacerone and Nexterone (both amiodarone).

  • Some antihistamines, such as Allegra (fexofenadine).

  • Some statin drugs to lower cholesterol, such as Zocor (simvastatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin).

  • Some drugs that treat high blood pressure, such as Procardia and Adalat CC (both nifedipine).

  • Some organ-transplant rejection drugs, such as Sandimmune and Neoral (both cyclosporine).

  • Some anti-anxiety drugs, such as buspirone.

  • Some corticosteroids that treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, such as Entocort EC and Uceris (both budesonide).

  • Some drugs that treat abnormal heart rhythms, such as Pacerone and Nexterone (both amiodarone).

  • Some antihistamines, such as Allegra (fexofenadine)

The Federation emphasizes that not all medications in these categories will interact negatively with these citrus fruits, but many will. Always consult with your doctor and pharmacist in order to ensure you are taking your medication safely.

Photo credits: Es75/Shutterstock.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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