Dangerous Drug Duo

Paxil and Pravachol increase blood glucose levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you're taking two common medications for treating depression and high cholesterol, you may want to be in touch with your doctor.

A recent study has shown that a widely used combination of two common medications may cause unexpected increases in blood glucose levels. The drugs are the antidepressant marketed as Paxil, and the other is a cholesterol-lowering medication called Pravachol. Neither of these drugs causes the problem when taken separately, only in combination.

"Paxil and Pravachol taken together may increase blood glucose levels."

The study conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University and Harvard Medical School found the medications increase blood sugar levels more in people who are diabetics. Pre-diabetic mice exposed to both drugs also experience glucose level changes.

According to the researchers between 500,000 and 1 million people in the United States may be taking the two medications simultaneously.

Researchers used an adverse-event reporting database maintained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the study. The study also examined the sophisticated electronic medical records used by each of the three participating institutions.

They used data-mining techniques to find patterns of associations in these large populations. These patterns wouldn't be readily apparent to physicians treating individual patients.

Senior author of the study, Russ Altman, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering, of genetics and of medicine at Stanford says these sorts of drug interactions are likely happening all the time. He adds that because the Food and Drug Administration does not study drug combinations, patterns such as these can only be identified once the drugs are on the market.

Dr. Altman adds that understanding the combination effect of the medication pair can allow people with diabetes to better control their blood glucose levels and possibly help someone who is pre-diabetic to avoid crossing into full-blood diabetes.

The study was published online in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 17, 2011
Last Updated:
June 19, 2011