Many people know about the dangers associated with prescription drugs, such as the wrongful use of these substances can lead to addiction and potentially harmful effects on the body. However, now new research suggests that it is not only the amount and type of medication that can be a danger - it is also what it is combined with.
According to a report from the Lawson Health Institute in London, Canada, many drugs can produce a harmful effect on the body when combined with grapefruit juice. The researchers noted that serious side effects of washing down prescription drugs with this bittersweet beverage can include skin rashes, headaches, dizziness and even, in extreme cases, death.
What is more, the researchers have been monitoring which drugs are harmful when combined with grapefruit juice for year, and they found that the number of medications which can induce a dangerous result when washed down with grape fruit juice has risen from 17 in 2008 to 43 in 2012.
It is believed that the reason that grapefruit juice makes certain medications dangerous is because there is a substance contained in this beverage that can make the body metabolise and therefore process the drugs at a faster rate than the body can handle. It is a chemical called furanocoumarin which stops the enzymes that break the drugs down into a form which can be safely used.
Worryingly, some of the drugs found to produce this adverse reaction are quite common and include fairly typical beta blockers and cholesterol medicine. In some cases, the juice can result in the person taking the drug receiving double the dosage that they meant to consume.
Dr. David Bailey, head study author and pharmacologist at the research center, commented: "What I’ve seen has been disturbing. It’s hard to avoid putting a drug out on the market that is not affected by grapefruit juice."
He told the BBC: "One tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice can be like taking five or 10 tablets with a glass of water and people say I don't believe it, but I can show you that scientifically it is sound. So you can unintentionally go from a therapeutic level to a toxic level just by consuming grapefruit juice."
For instance, in the case of one blood pressure drug that the scientists tested (felodipine), patients received three times the level that their body was ready for when they drank grapefruit juice compared to when they washed it down with a glass of water.
Dr Bailey added: "Unless health care professionals are aware of the possibility that the adverse event they are seeing might have an origin in the recent addition of grapefruit to the patient's diet, it is very unlikely that they will investigate it."
The best thing that those who take prescription drugs can do to protect themselves from harm is to ask their pharmacist and doctor about the safest way to take their medications. Each drug can potentially have a different effect on each individual, and therefore nothing should be left to chance.