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Health trends

Published:Wednesday | March 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Grapefruit juice and medicine mix

Grapefruit juice and fresh grapefruit can interfere with the action of some prescription and nonprescription drugs.

This interaction can be dangerous, said Shiew Mei Huang, acting director of the US Food and Drug Administration's Office of Clinical Pharmacology. With most drugs that interact with grapefruit juice, "the juice increases the absorption of the drug into the bloodstream", she said. "When there is a higher concentration of a drug, you tend to have more adverse events."

For example, if you drink a lot of grapefruit juice while taking certain statin drugs to lower cholesterol, too much of the drug may stay in your body, increasing your risk for liver damage and muscle breakdown that can lead to kidney failure.

Drinking grapefruit juice several hours before or several hours after you take your medicine may still be dangerous, says Huang, so it's best to avoid or limit consuming grapefruit juice or fresh grapefruit when taking certain drugs.

Examples of some types of drugs that grapefruit juice can interact with are:

some statin drugs to lower cholesterol, such as Zocor (simvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin)

some blood pressure-lowering drugs, such as Nifediac and Afeditab (both nifedipine)

some organ transplant-rejection drugs, such as Sandimmune and Neoral (both cyclosporine)

some anti-anxiety drugs, such as BuSpar (buspirone)

some anti-arrhythmia drugs, such as Cordarone and Nexterone (both amiodarone)

some antihistamines, such as Allegra (fexofenadine).

Grapefruit juice does not affect all the drugs in the categories above. Ask your pharmacist or other health-care professional if your specific drug is affected.

Surfaxin approved for premature infants

The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Surfaxin (lucinactant) for the prevention of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), a breathing disorder that affects premature infants.

The lungs of premature infants are not able to make enough surfactant, a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps to keep them open. Without enough surfactant, the lungs collapse and the infant has difficulty breathing. Most babies who develop RDS show signs of breathing problems and a lack of oxygen at birth or within the first few hours after birth.

Surfaxin is the fifth drug approved in the United States to treat RDS in premature infants. The other FDA-approved surfactants include Survanta (beractant), Curosurf (poractant alpha), Infasurf (calfactant), and Exosurf (colfosceril palmitate), which is no longer marketed.

- Source: US Food and Drug Administration