Thursday December 6, 2001

Study Examines Garlic Supplements


WASHINGTON (AP) - Garlic supplements, often taken in hopes of lowering cholesterol, can seriously interfere with drugs used to treat the AIDS virus, a new federal study concludes.

The study makes garlic the second popular herbal remedy found to interact dangerously with prescription drugs. Experts already warn that St. John's wort, which claims to ease depression, can block the effectiveness of several drugs, including AIDS treatments and a medicine vital for organ transplant recipients.

"Doctors and patients should not assume that dietary supplements are benign therapies,'' wrote Dr. Judith Falloon of the National Institutes of Health, co-author of the garlic study.

NIH researchers recruited 10 healthy volunteers - people who did not have HIV - and gave them doses of an AIDS drug called saquinavir. Saquinavir is a protease inhibitor, one of a class of potent drugs credited with helping thousands of patients battle HIV and live longer lives.

The volunteers took saquinavir for three days, after which researchers tested the drug's level in their bloodstream. Then they took both saquinavir and garlic supplements for three weeks.

Blood levels of the medication dropped 51 percent when it was taken with garlic, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

A drop that big in an HIV patient could cause treatment failure, doctors say.