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San Diego-area program warns against mixing cannabis with certain prescription meds


Seventeen pharmacies in San Diego County will soon begin distributing flyers to patients warning of potential interactions between prescription medications and cannabis.

The pilot program will provide information to patients about possible cannabis-medication interactions, as well as seek feedback through an online survey to evaluate whether patients find such information useful.

“Lack of consumer protection and proper labeling have left consumers at risk for potential harmful consequences,” Dr. Roneet Lev, an emergency and addiction physician, said at a Thursday news conference at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Santee pharmacy.

Lev is also chief medical officer for the nonprofit that’s leading the effort, the Center for Community Research, which runs local anti-drug abuse initiatives, including the Marijuana Prevention Initiative, whose mission is to reduce youth access to cannabis.

Dr. Seung Oh, pharmacy supervisor at Sharp Rees-Stealy Santee, said the group was “not here to say anything about using cannabis one way or another,” but was “simply here to increase awareness” that cannabis could negatively interact with important prescription medications — just as consuming grapefruit can produce bad interactions with certain medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires some prescription and over-the-counter drugs to include warnings against eating grapefruit or drinking its juice while taking them.

“Cannabis could potentially do the same thing,” Oh said.

The pharmacies will distribute about 12,000 flyers as part of the pilot program. Among other information, the flyers will direct patients to drugs.com to check whether cannabis interacts with the patients’ medications. Drugs.com lists 26 drugs known to have a “major interaction” with cannabis, and 354 that have a “moderate interaction.”

Aram Penaranda is pharmacy director at Allen Pharmacy in downtown San Diego, one of the 17 pharmacies that will be taking part in the initiative. He said the pharmacy’s clients “are often not aware of the drug interaction that exists between their medications and marijuana.

“It is quite common to see on prescription labels ‘do not take with alcohol or other drugs,’” he said. “Unfortunately, marijuana use is often overlooked.”

Other local pharmacies that will be distributing the flyers include three in the Scripps system, including Encinitas and Scripps Mercy, and eight in the Sharp Rees-Stealy system, including in downtown San Diego, Rancho Bernardo, Sorrento Valley, La Mesa, Chula Vista and Otay Ranch.

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