Drugs Have Side Effects — Compounding Pharmacies Should Ensure Nutritional Deficiency Is Not One
Miranda is 60 years old. She has a history of heart disease and hypertension, and is in the early stages of osteoporosis. Her healthcare team is treating all three of these conditions, but she is still suffering from fatigue and depression. She isn’t sleeping well at night and sometimes she has panic attacks. She thinks it’s all due to stress, but her team came up with a different explanation—nutritional deficiencies from the medications she’s on. A quick blood panel confirms their suspicions—Miranda is suffering from a loss of magnesium, potassium, and zinc, all due to her medications. Her pharmacist adds the right dietary supplements to her daily routine and her symptoms clear up quickly. So does her stress.1
It’s a little-acknowledged fact that many common drugs, such as antibiotics and even contraception pills, cause serious nutritional deficiencies. Physicians often don’t consider these side effects but pharmacists have the opportunity for face-to-face education, especially since we know how medications interact with each other. We can keep a minor loss in nutrients from turning into a major problem that causes even more issues down the line.
Drugs Can Cause Nutritional Deficiencies in Different Ways
Nutritional side effects from different drugs can occur at multiple points from when the medication is taken to when it takes effect on the patient.2
- Intake: Many medications come with the advice that they should be taken with food, partly because some drugs cause a notable reduction of appetite right away. The less a patient wants to eat, the fewer nutrients she is getting. Other times, however, a drug can cause the opposite reaction—that is, increasing the patient’s desire to eat all the wrong foods, ones that aren’t nutritious at all.
- Absorb/Breakdown: Some medications bind to available nutrients as the drug is absorbed in the body. They can also increase nutrient metabolism, or speed up the time it takes for nutrients to be urinated out, all of which cause nutrient loss.
- Block: Other medications can block nutrients from having effects on the cellular level—for example preventing the right enzymes from processing these much-needed nutrients.
Compounding pharmacies can advise patients of key nutrients they need to replenish in their diets, supplements they should be taking, or both.
Common Medications Compounding Pharmacies Should Keep Track Of
We’re not here to paint life-saving drugs as anything but what they are: essential. Nutritional deficiency may sound like a minor inconvenience, but long-term depletion of essential nutrients can cause serious problems like digestive issues, stunted growth, and even dementia down the line. Prescribing a general vitamin supplement may work for some people, but it’s far better for patients and pharmacists to be aware of what deficiencies to look for and to request the right blood tests. Some common medications that are not as benign as they might seem include3:
- Antacids, which cause a lack of vitamins B12 and D3, folic acid, calcium, chromium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus;
- Antibiotics, which can decrease amounts of biotin, vitamins B-complex and K, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum;
- Antidepressants, which lower levels of vitamin B-complex and folic acid;
- Beta Blockers, which affect levels of CoQ10 and melatonin;
- Glucose drugs, which are linked to reduction in vitamin B12, folic acid, and CoQ10;
- Hormone Replacement Therapy, which cause decreases in vitamins B2, B6, B12, and C levels, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, and zinc;
- Hypertensives, which cause a decrease in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B1, B6, C, and zinc;
- Statins, which affect levels of CoQ10.
These deficiencies can be very serious. For example, low folic acid can increase the risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer, and can also result in otherwise unnecessary hysterectomies. Vitamin B (complex) is implicated in increased heart disease, as well as insomnia. Lack of vitamin C, or zinc, can weaken immune response and the body’s ability to heal wounds. Magnesium loss is implicated in a number of diseases, including osteoporosis, anxiety and depression, as well as heart and blood pressure problems. CoQ10 weakens many parts of the body at a cellular level and can also cause a host of diseases.
Compounding pharmacies track what medications each patient takes, and what nutritional side effects that patient should be aware of. A general OTC vitamin pill might not be the right supplement for a patient, given the dosage and contraindications of her current treatment—we don’t want our patients to take too much of a multi-vitamin supplement that might fix the loss of one nutrient only to give her too much of another. Instead, we should compound the right mixture of nutrients she needs based on her specific case.
Knowing the difference between a real side effect and one that can be balanced with diet and supplements can be the difference between constantly feeling sick and actually being healthy. Compounding pharmacies can and should be a big part of that solution.
Pharmaceutica North America is invested in providing patients with medications that are high-quality, safe and effective. We stay on top of the latest research in order to advise you of best treatment practices. Please contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
- “A Practical Guide to Avoiding Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion,” April 22, 2013, http://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/practical-guide-avoiding-drug-induced-nutrient-depletion/ ↩
- “Nutrient-Drug Interactions and Food,” September 2013, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09361.html ↩
- “Preventing Pharmaceutical-Induced Nutritional Deficiencies,” March 2006, http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2006/3/report_drugs/page-01 ↩