drug interactions

Medications are often crucial for maintaining our health, but every drug you take has potential side effects and may interact with other medicines. What do you know about these hazards?

Understanding Benefits and Risks:

Our guest, Dr. Russ Altman, suggests that physicians should exercise more restraint in prescribing and patients should ask more questions about the drugs they are expected to take. That way, everyone will have a better understanding of the balance of benefits and risks that accompany every prescription. Both doctors and patients also need to pay attention to potential drug interactions.

Learning about Drug Interactions:

Dr. Altman describes the unusual computer analysis that he and his students employed to discover an unsuspected interaction between the cholesterol drug pravastatin (Pravachol) and the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil). This combination can raise blood sugar significantly. What other drug interactions are yet to be discovered?

Over-the-Counter Drugs:

When it comes to over-the-counter drugs, too many people assume they are perfectly safe. OTC medicines also have potential side effects and may interact with other medicines in dangerous ways. How can you find out more about the drugs you take on your own?

This Week’s Guest:

Russ Altman, MD, PhD, is the Kenneth Fong Professor of Bioengineering, Genetics, Medicine, and Biomedical Data Science at Stanford University Medical School. He also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Computer Science. Here are some helpful links for his work:

Lab page: http://helix.stanford.edu/index.html

The PharmGKB resource for pharmacogenomics http://www.pharmgkb.org/

Paper on drug interaction discovery from FDA databases and electronic health records http://tatonettilab.org/resources/tatonetti-stm.html


Paper on interaction between Paxil and pravastatin https://www.nigms.nih.gov/news/meetings/documents/russ_altman_article.pdf

Ted Talk on Drug Interactions https://www.ted.com/talks/russ_altman_what_really_happens_when_you_mix_medications

Ted Talk on Pharmacogenomics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1iKibDqtck

You may also be interested in our post about the Chicago Tribune study of pharmacies dispensing without warning of deadly drug interactions. You can learn more about the frightening interaction between ACE inhibitors and co-trimoxazole here and here.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD

Download the mp3


Air Date:January 14, 2017

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Marjorie

    I have not been able to hear the playback either— looked forward to it and hope this is a computer glitch. Thanks for these wonderfully informative broadcasts

  2. jane

    I also can’t find the playbacks either.. I would like to hear a program like I used to but can’t find how to get it any more. It’s still being advertised that we can hear a program for a month after it’s aired.

  3. Paula C Willis
    Asheville, NC

    Usually I can listen to the show for a week or so after the broadcast. I notice that the playbacks are no longer available. Has there been a change?

  4. Marge Degrave

    I took Gabapentin 300 for 5 months for severe nerve damage. It caused me to have horrible nightmares and night sweats. I didn’t know until I went for a kidney check that Gabapentin had my GFR kidney factor down to a 32 rating from my normal 68. The doctor told me to get off Gabapentin immediately as I was “2 digits” from dialysis. (I went to Norco 325) My GFR took two months to get back out of the “danger zone”. May be a good idea to watch the kidney function while on this med as I was advised it can be a bad mix with kidney function. I had taken Tramadol prior to the Gabapentin and it worked super with all my other meds until my system resisted it after three years.

  5. Liz

    I highly recommend reading Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen to research possible deficiencies brought on by medications. My mother also in her 80’s was given Tramadol. She would then fall out of bed and not be able to get up, or get up at midnight and get dressed. She also had constipation followed by bouts of diarrhea she slept through…

  6. Linda L
    Charleston, SC

    I enjoyed the conversation with Dr. Altman and am glad to hear that physician researchers and pharmacists are beginning to use big data to explore the problem of drug interactions. I was distressed, though, at the assumption that information about drug interactions is only of interest – or should only be shared with – clinicians. Patients are critical players in this – in fact the most important player. Any information about potential interactions should be shared with patients with a clear statement about the impact of the interaction and what types of symptoms patients’ should watch for which might indicate a problem. Dr. Altman suggested that this type of information would be “too scary” for patients – a very paternalistic attitude that I found condescending. If it is my body that is likely to be affected by some clinician’s decision then I should have as much information as that clinician.

  7. Marge D

    I do a regular check with 4-5 different sites that cater to drug interactions. I find that the Childrens Aspirin (or any aspirin) seems to interfere with MANY medications. I have never seen this addressed. Every friend I have has been told to “take an aspirin a day” without regard to current meds for heart, cholesteral, nerve damage, etc… My Cardio tells me to take “the 81” even though I have never had a heart attack….I have had open heart (CABG-4) for 70-60-60-50 blockages as a “precaution” at age 60. Should there be an aspirin regime for ALL…What’s the medical consensus. Thank You.

  8. J. David A
    Springfield, MO, USA

    Mother is in a NH. L-1 compressed the third time – nothing left. Norco 5-325 may be sedating with Gabapentin 300 twice a day. Tramadol has been ordered – what other drugs are dangerous with Tramadol in a 88 year old?

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.