Do prescription medications cause more bad than good?

Courtesy Texas Star Pharmacy

By Angela Nguyen, Pharm D. Candidate 2015

Have you had unresolved symptoms or unexplained conditions after seeing multiple doctors? “I have a weird taste in my mouth, there is a burning sensation on my tongue, and my breath smells bad.” These were statements I heard from my mother quite often. No matter how many times a day she brushed her teeth, rinsed her mouth, and chewed gum, she could not get rid of her symptoms.

She had been experiencing this for quite some time and it became very bothersome for her. It got to the point that she was embarrassed to be around people. Over the past year, my mother had gone to multiple physicians trying to figure out the cause. Doctors were unable to find anything conclusive and assumed it might be acid reflux. She then went to a specialist who recommended a daily zinc supplement. As a pharmacy student currently on rotations, I thought this was strange at first. I did some research and discovered a list, which showed commonly prescribed medications that can cause nutrient depletion. On this list was hormone replacement therapy. My mother has currently been on estrogen therapy for three years. Estrogen can cause zinc levels to decrease and low levels of zinc are associated with bad breath. Zinc deficiently was the root cause of my mother’s problems. Despite several doctor’s visits and trying different medications, her issues were due to a simple nutrient depletion.

As patients, we expect good results from our prescription medications. We know they may cause side effects, but we don’t think about them over time causing nutrient depletion. Our prescribed medication may be helping one issue and causing another issue simultaneously. Here’s an example. “Statins,” a popular class of cholesterol medications, are often prescribed to patients for long-term use. Patients may experience a side effect known as myalgia (muscle pain or weakness) while taking this medication. The muscle pain results from a depletion of coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is a nutrient found throughout our body but is present in higher concentrations in organs with higher energy requirements such as the kidneys, liver, and heart. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency has been associated with cardiovascular problems including angina, arrhythmia, heart failure and high blood pressure. As a result, anyone taking “statin” medications should be taking CoQ-10 supplements. Another example of a nutrient depletion is folic acid. Many drug classes such as antacids, estrogen, and diabetic medications to name a few can reduce folic acid. Low levels of folic acid can cause anemia resulting in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Also cardiovascular drugs, such as Metoprolol, can deplete zinc, coenzyme Q10, vitamin B1 and B6. Insufficient amounts of B6 can result in anemia as well as skin disorders, such as a rash or cracks around the mouth. A lack of B6 also can cause depression, confusion, or a susceptibility to infections.

These are a few examples of conditions associated with nutrient depletion. Listed below is a table of medications that are responsible for depletion of nutrients.

Drug Class            Nutrient Depletion
Prilosec, Zantac, Prevacid
Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Zinc
Coenzyme Q 10
Female hormone:
Vitamin B1/B2/B3/B6/B12, Vitamin C, Folic acid, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc
Lasix, Hydrochlorothiazide, Spironolactone
Vitamin B1/B6, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Coenzyme Q10, Potassium, Sodium
Vitamin B1/B6, Coenzyme Q10, Zinc
Metformin, Glyburide
Vitamin B12, Coenzyme Q 10, Folic Acid

There is a solution! Within two weeks my mother’s progress had improved. By supplementing with zinc, her depleted nutrient, she is feeling much better and has no complaints of bad breath. While being on prescription medication may be important in maintaining health conditions, it is equally essential to restore necessary nutrients. Taking supplements to replace your nutrient depletion will correct the problem. Pharmaceutical grade supplements are available at certain pharmacies, such as TexasStar.

If you are concerned of nutrient depletion please check with your nutritionist or pharmacist prior to obtaining supplements. If you believe nutrient supplements are necessary for you, contact Christina Reiter, Certified Clinical Nutritionist at 972-519-8475 to make an appointment.

We look forward to assisting you back to a balanced and healthy life at TexasStar Pharmacy located at 3033 W. Parker Rd. Plano, TX 75023.

Article written by Angela Nguyen, Pharm D. Candidate 2015 and reviewed by Crystal Blade, PharmD. If you would like to know more please contact us at 972-519-8475 (Store #1) or 214-291-5087 (Store #2).