Q: Recently I was prescribed an antibiotic that I later learned was causing hypoglycemia in combination with my anti-diabetic med. Is there a way for me as a layman to check out drugs & supplements for potential interactions? – Jim
A: People with chronic illness should be especially alert to potentially harmful supplement/drug/herb interactions, because they typically take multiple prescription drugs and use dietary supplements to support their health. For example, surveys in ProHealth’s e-newsletters found that:
• 70% of respondents take four or more nutritional supplements regularly
• 50% take four or more prescription drugs for symptoms of their illness
• 53% of respondents’ doctors don’t ask about what supplements they’re taking
• 35% don’t tell their doctors about all the supplements they take.
So I have compiled the following list of online databases that you can use to do your own detective work. Once you begin to do this, you’ll quickly realize how important it can be to keep your professional healthcare team fully informed about what you’re taking, and to explicitly ask them for their insights and advice.
Also, it’s important to recognize that though an interaction may not be noted in these databases, that’s no guarantee. Every person reacts differently to medications and supplements, and should always consult with their physician or pharmacist before starting any new protocol if they are on prescription meds. Also, people with illnesses such as ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and MCS tend to be extra sensitive to drugs.
RESOURCES FOR CHECKING DRUG & SUPPLEMENT INTERACTIONS
1. The Drug Digest Site – The Most Complete Searchable Database Found http://www.drugdigest.org/wps/portal/ddigest (click on “Check Interactions”)
Includes interactions with drugs, herbs, alcohol and food. This database covers some 5,000 drugs and herbs, and 11,500 potential interactions based on reports in the literature. The search process is simple once you walk through these steps:
• In the Drug box, type the first drug or herb you want to search on (for example, “aspirin”) & click Search.
• This highlights “aspirin” in the Search Results box.
• Then click the >> tab to enter “aspirin” in the Interaction List box.
• Repeat the process for each additional drug or herb you want in your Interaction List
• Then click Check Interactions.
2. National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets
Includes a great deal of information on each listed supplement, including footnoted summaries of any known issues and controversies, side effects and cautions about the supplement, and tables listing known interactions (if any) with different types of medications.
3. Drug Interaction Checker at Drugs.com – Covers Drugs and Supplements
Even if no known interactions exist between the drugs and supplements you select, the easy-to-search database will give you a list of other drugs that might interact with each, if you want to check. You’ll also be informed of any known interactions between your selected drugs/supplements and foods.
4. HolisticOnline.com – Medicine, Herb, Food Interactions
A website with general information about drug, herb & food interactions – under the heading “Herbs and foods may lead to complications if you take them with drugs.” There’s no search option available for specific personalized interaction searches.
5. HerbMedR – Database of Journal Abstracts on Most Botanical Medicines
Offers an extensive alphabetized search menu of herbal medicines, usefully providing both the scientific name and common name of each. Offers PubMed abstracts covering evidence for efficacy and activity as well as interactions & other safety data. However, many herbs listed in the menu are marked with an asterisk (*) – meaning they can only be searched in the Professional Version of the database, available by subscription or license.
A DRUG DATABASE THAT INFORMS ABOUT SAFETY CONCERNS
The FDA Index to Drug-Specific Information – flags all drugs with Active FDA Safety Alerts
This easy-to-use database offers drug names in an alphabetical list (both brand names & generic names). Those with an Active Safety Alert are marked with a bold red star. Just click on a drug’s name to review any safety alerts, but also to access a great deal of other information about the drug, including “advice for healthcare professionals.”
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.