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Grapefruit Juice Saves Money On Medicine

Posting Date: 09/20/2004

Q. I noticed your comment on grapefruit juice raising blood levels of some medications. This is true, but as a medical doctor I purposely use it to increase absorption of an expensive drug.

A. Grapefruit does not actually improve absorption of medications. It does, however, interfere with the breakdown (metabolism) of dozens of drugs. In effect, that raises blood levels and increases the impact the drug has on the body.

Your strategy does require careful monitoring. The grapefruit effect is highly variable. Some people are very susceptible to it while others are resistant. That makes it hard to predict how any individual patient will respond.

Q. My mother has been taking thyroid hormone for 35 years and prefers Armour to Synthroid. Lately I've had a hard time convincing her doctors to prescribe Armour instead of the Synthroid.

They claim there is no difference. If not, and it makes my mother feel better, why not go with her preference?

Are there any clinical differences between the two? I'd like some evidence in case simple preference isn?t a sufficient argument.

A. Actually, there are some differences between dessicated thyroid gland (Armour) and synthetic levothyroxine (Synthroid). Many doctors prefer to prescribe the synthetic because it is easier to control the dose. Most patients do well on a synthetic formulation, whether Synthroid, Levothroid or Levoxyl, although subtle differences between them make it unwise to shift back and forth frequently.

Other people tell us that they feel better on Armour thyroid. It contains small amounts of T3 hormone as well as T4 (levothyroxine), so it is possible some of these individuals aren?t good at converting T4 to T3, which is the active form.

We are sending you our Guide to Thyroid Hormones, for an in-depth discussion of this issue and guidance on interpreting thyroid tests. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. T-4, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.