Alan LOVED to eat fruit, any kind of fruit… but his favorites were strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit. However, I remember when he was taking sutent (typically used to treat kidney cancer), “chemo-in-a-pill” as we called it, he was not allowed to eat grapefruit… or drink his favorite soda Fresca which is made from grapefruits…. but why? I mean, aren’t grapefruits good for you??? After all, they are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, potassium and other phytonutrients.
Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…
Furanocoumarin, a compound found in grapefruits (as well as limes, pomelos, Seville oranges) can interact with certain medications. According to a new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, grapefruit or its juices can interact with more than 85 drugs- of which 43 have the potential to cause serious, possibly even fatal, side effects.
Below is a sampling of some of the drugs that can interact with grapefruit:
“Crizotinib: a drug that’s used to treat certain forms of cancer. If patients on this drug eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice, it may cause torsade de pointes, a serious, often fatal, heart problem. It can also cause bone-marrow suppression, or myelotoxicity.
Oxycodone: an opioid narcotic used to treat pain and is also commonly abused. If mixed with grapefruit, it can cause respiratory depression or inadequate intake of breath, a serious condition.
Cyclosporine: an immunosuppressant drug used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. If mixed with grapefruit, it can be toxic to the kidneys and lead to renal failure.” (source: Globe & Mail)
So while some foods and drinks may strengthen the effect of the medication and produce an outcome similar to overdosing, others can weaken the effect of the medication. This can make the medication ineffective, and result in a lack of symptom relief or worsening of the disease.
**** When taking any medication, always read the warning label, and speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about food and drug interactions.
**** Also check out Chemo101.com, a super informative & easy-to-use site that helps to educate cancer patients and caregivers about chemotherapy drugs and their side effects as well as various medical terminologies, insurance basics, patient assistant programs and more.
**** Click HERE to see a recently updated list of medications that interact with grapefruit compiled by Canadian researcher Dr. David Bailey, who first described this interaction more than two decades ago.