The small grapefruit symbol on the pill bottle with a line through it tells a modern tale: Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice while taking this medication.
As millions of North Americans are prescribed statin drugs like Lipitor to combat high cholesterol, grapefruit sales have suffered.
In response, the Florida Department of Citrus, Bartow, plans to continue its grapefruit-drug interaction program, now in its 10th year, and continue to “thwart misinformation that could damage grapefruit’s reputation and reduce consumption,” according to the department’s marketing plan.
The department of citrus also plans to continue working with scientific experts and provide healthcare professionals with resources and accurate, up-to-date information as they counsel their patients.
The department’s website, DrugInteractionCenter.org, explains that grapefruit juice is safe to drink with most over-the-counter medications and with the majority of prescribed drugs.
Among the drugs it can interact with, however, are statins, immune system suppressants used by transplant patients and to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, or as calcium channel-blockers for high blood pressure and even antihistimines used for allergies.
When grapefruit or juice is consumed around the same time as the drug, a natural substance in the fruit prevents an enzyme in the body from breaking down the drug, causing it to accumulate in high amounts in the body and leading to possible side effects.
“We need to make it clear to consumers that this interaction does not happen with all, or even most, drugs,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
“The effect is only with specific medications, and consumers should check with their physicians,” said Smith.
For now, the site advises grapefruit lovers using drugs on the restricted list to ask their doctor for an alternative medication, if possible.