PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Taking vitamin supplements along with prescription medicines can be dangerous. You have to know what does and doesn’t work together.

But it’s not always easy to figure it which combinations can lead to harmful interactions.

We take $300 billion worth of prescription drugs a year and another $26 billion worth of dietary supplements. Consumer Reports Medical Advisor Dr. Orly Avitzur says combining the two may be hazardous to your health.

“Some supplements can change the effectiveness of certain prescription drugs, and some can increase the likelihood and severity of side effects,” said Dr. Avitzur.

For example, glucosamine can interact with the blood thinner, Warfarin, and may increase the risk of bleeding. St. John’s Wort can lower the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

Also, if you regularly take the supplement Red Yeast Rice along with Lipitor or another prescription cholesterol drug, it may increase your risk of kidney or liver damage over time. Read more at this link.

“Ideally, when getting a prescription, you should talk to your pharmacist about any supplements you’re taking and see if there is a problem combining them,” Dr. Avitzur said.

When Consumer Reports sent anonymous shoppers into 20 pharmacies in five states to ask whether there was a potential problem taking Lipitor with Red Yeast Rice, many pharmacists didn’t know.

“In 12 of the 20 times, pharmacists gave us incorrect or fuzzy advice,” said Consumer Reports’ Tod Marks. “On two occasions, they actually recommended taking the combination.”

Experts say you should also consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements along with your prescription drugs.

Consumer Reports has put together a list of nine top-selling herbal supplements and some common drugs that may interact with them.

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