San Diego-area program warns in opposition to mixing hashish with sure prescription meds

Seventeen pharmacies in San Diego County will soon begin handing out flyers to patients warning of possible drug interactions with cannabis.

The pilot program will educate patients about possible drug-drug interactions and collect feedback through an online survey to assess whether patients find such information useful.

“The lack of consumer protection and proper labeling has put consumers at risk of potential harmful consequences,” said Dr. Roneet Lev, an emergency and addiction doctor, at a press conference on Thursday at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Santee pharmacy.

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

Dr. Seung Oh, Pharmacy Manager at Sharp Rees-Stealy Santee, said the group was “not here to say anything about the use of cannabis in one way or another” but “just here to raise awareness”, that cannabis could interact negatively with major prescriptions medication – just as consuming grapefruit can lead to poor interactions with certain medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that some prescription and over-the-counter drugs contain warnings not to eat grapefruit or drink its juice while ingesting it.

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

The pharmacies will distribute around 12,000 flyers as part of the pilot program. Among other things, the flyers will redirect patients to drug.com to check if cannabis is interacting with patients’ drugs. Drugs.com lists 26 drugs known to have a “major interaction” with cannabis and 354 that are known to have a “moderate interaction”.

Aram Penaranda is the director of pharmacists at Allen Pharmacy in downtown San Diego, one of 17 pharmacies participating in the initiative. He said the pharmacy’s customers are “often unaware of the interactions between their drugs and marijuana.

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

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