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Milk negates healing power of antibiotics,reveals PU study

A research conducted by the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences,Panjab University,has revealed that antibiotics,if taken with dairy products.

Seven-year research was conducted by University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences; study also finds antacids and multivitamin-mineral combinations render ciprofloxacin,gatifloxacin ineffective

A research conducted by the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences,Panjab University,has revealed that antibiotics,if taken with dairy products,tend to lose effectiveness to less than 50 per cent,and in some cases,are rendered ineffective completely. The study holds much significance in the Indian context,for it is quite common among people here to take antibiotics with milk.

The study,conducted by a team comprising a couple of PhD and M Pharma scholars under the guidance of Dr Bhupinder Singh Bhoop,professor and Dean-Alumni,Panjab University,has already been presented at the International Conference held at NIPER (National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research),Mohali,last year.

It has also been published in one of the popular journals on pharmaceutical sciences — Clinical Pharmacokinetics. The research has been recently published by the Panjab University,too.

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It took the team almost seven years to complete the study on the intake of two commonly used antibiotics— ciprofloxacin and gatifloxacin. The results showed a drastic decline in their effect —between 31 and 66 per cent (with a mean of 52 per cent); in some cases,milk totally nullified the effect of these antibiotics.

“The antibiotics are partially or even absolutely ineffective if they are consumed with dairy products,especially milk. The study was conducted on 12 male volunteers,” said Dr Bhoop.

The research further revealed that the concurrent intake of even antacids with these drugs should be avoided,as these,too,might thwart the attainment of optimal therapeutic effect of these drugs.


In a nutshell,serious and significant clinical consequences of antibiotic interaction were discerned. The scientific reason for this phenomenon deduced from the study is that reduction in the plasma levels of these antibiotics may turn out to be sub-therapeutic for many pathogens (disease causing organisms) against which these drugs are intended to be used to combat various infective disorders. This may lead to treatment failure when these drugs are co-administered with antacids,dairy products and/or multivitamin-mineral combinations containing iron,calcium,and the like.

“This is true for many drugs that they should not be taken with certain food items and I am not surprised if ciprofloxacin has shown such results. The reason could be that certain drugs compete for absorption with food items after their intake; they get attached to certain food items and are flushed out without getting absorbed. Also,certain medicines are absorbed at higher pH levels. Thus,the food items can interfere with medicines including antibiotics,” said Dr Subhash Verma,who has held the post of MD at the Department of Medicine,PGIMER,for over 30 years.

One of the recommendations of the study is that these drugs should be taken at least two hours before or six hours after the intake of these items,including milk products,antacids or multivitamin-mineral combinations.


“Surprisingly,some doctors do not advise the patients on the possible consequences of taking these antimicrobials with other drugs and dairy products. Looking into the significance of the outcome of these drug interaction studies,it is highly desirable to propagate rational awareness among physicians,pharmacists,chemists,pharmaceutical manufacturers,educators,medical salesmen and even the general public on the potential risks of concurrent therapy using these drugs. Labeling instructions and insert information should also be modified accordingly. This will help a great deal in circumventing any treatment failures occurring as a consequence,” said Dr Bhoop.

Dr Surjit Singh,another senior doctor in the department of medicine,PGIMER,echoed Dr Verma’s views. “It is possible that the absorption of antibiotics is inhibited by the intake of food items,including milk. It is also true that such is the prevalence of the habit among the society that 99.9 per cent of people usually take medicines with milk or meals. I have been advocating all my life that certain medicines can be safely taken without milk and even on an empty stomach,but to no avail. As most of the doctors do not advise patients on the intake of medicines,the practice continues to be widespread,” he said.

First published on: 04-10-2010 at 02:19:20 am
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