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Warning About Mixing Prescription Drugs with Herbal Remedies

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Sep 30, 2012

Many people assume that all herbs are safe and thus fail to mention to their doctors or pharmacists that they are taking herbal products. When a person is prescribed a drug for his or her health concern, the doctor and pharmacist involved should be aware if the person taking that drug is also taking herbal products, including vitamins. 

Harmful interactions can occur when some herbal remedies are mixed with prescription medications. While most people know to avoid alcohol when taking medication due to the potential drug interaction dangers, many people are not aware of the potential interaction of herbal products with prescription medications. Sadly, there are hidden dangers that many people do not know about. This is why patients need to tell their doctors and pharmacists everything they are taking including:

  • Herbal products
  • Vitamins
  • Cold and sinus medications
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Pain relievers
  • Dietary supplements
  • Any other drug

Patients generally do not tell their doctors they are taking herbal products, vitamins, and dietary supplements because they do not consider these products medications. According to the FDA website, only about 25 percent of patients report the use of herbal medications to their physicians. Thus, doctors and pharmacists are urging more patients to discuss any supplements with them, especially before surgery. 

“The use of herbal medicines poses potentially serious problems for physicians,” says Dr. Mark Henschke, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of pharmacy, and master of medical management at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He says that “probably 70 percent of patients are taking some type of herbal product.” Unfortunately, many consumers are not aware that these products can interact with prescription medications. 

While doctors and pharmacists may make medication mistakes, patients themselves can aid in those mistakes by not properly informing their physician about any and all medications they are taking. 

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