Thursday, 9 August 2012

Express cancer story 'potentially dangerous'

An article in yesterday's Express stated:

Jo Willey's article said:

Drinking grapefruit juice can dramatically boost the ­effectiveness of cancer drugs, according to scientists.

It means patients might be able to lower their dose of medication while still getting the same benefit as if from a higher one.

But the NHS Behind the Headlines response is that the Express' reporting is not only 'misleading' but also 'potentially dangerous':

The findings of the research do suggest that combining sirolimus with grapefruit juice may achieve a successful “trade-off” between effectiveness and reduced side effects. However, the researchers are clear that further research must be done to develop these preliminary findings.

Therefore, headlines claiming that grapefruit juice "boosts cancer drugs" are both misleading and irresponsible. This was a carefully controlled trial, looking at a single medication, that employed rigorous safety protocols.

Encouraging people to mix grapefruit juice with both prescription and non-prescription drugs could lead to overdoses, which could be dangerous. Cancer patients should not alter their current medication dosages or start drinking grapefruit juice based on this research.  


The media reports failed to give clear warnings about the potential dangers of anyone drinking grapefruit juice while taking certain medications, due to its ability to strengthen the drug’s dose. 

The Express’s headline was particularly misleading as it implied that all cancer drugs would benefit from being combined with grapefruit juice. In fact, the researchers were only looking at a single drug, and even then, this medication is not widely used to treat cancer. 

The reports may lead some cancer patients to think that reaching for the juice is a good or at least harmless idea. However, drinking grapefruit juice while taking medication is potentially dangerous. NHS Choices specifically states that if you are taking immunosuppressant medications such as sirolimus, you should never drink grapefruit juice without consulting your doctor.

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