Herb/Drug interactions in emergency medical care evaluated




Acad Emerg Med

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Consumer Data: Ginkgo
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As the increase in the use of dietary supplements rises, so does the potential for herb/drug and supplement/herb interactions. Some of these interactions have received enough media attention that physicians, pharmacists, and patients are aware of them. An example of a known interaction, which can occur with concurrent use of St. John’s wort and certain antidepressants. A lesser known interaction would be one between Gingko biloba, known to have blood thinning properties, and any type of anticoagulant medications.

Many individuals taking supplements do not inform their healthcare professional about what they are taking and many healthcare professionals do not ask. There is a concern within the medical community that consumers do not recognize herbs as medicinal products even though they have been used medicinally for thousands of years worldwide. By not recognizing the strength or properties of some herbs or supplements, consumers who are taking prescription or over the counter medications could be placing themselves at risk.

One area that has not been assessed to date is that of emergency medicine and the potential for interactions between the supplements patients may be taking and the drugs that they may be given as a part of their emergency care. To evaluate this potential, researchers at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville NC, assessed over 900 patients entering the emergency room for treatment. Of those assessed, 135 indicated that they used supplements regularly. Of those 135, 79.3% were taking prescription medication and 80% were given medications in the emergency room. Six patients were identified at risk of seven known drug/herb interactions but the researchers indicated that the potential for other interactions exists because of the lack of knowledge about the herbs and supplements being used. This study points out the importance of disclosing to the caretaker, any and all supplements that are being used.1


1. Rogers EA, et al. Are emergency department patients at risk for herb-drug interactions? Acad Emerg Med. Sep 2001;8(9):932-4.