Coca-Cola neutralizes drug interaction with cancer medication: Study

  • Drug interactions happen when other drugs or foods interfere with how a given medication works. E.g., grapefruit juice vs. certain cancer medications.
  • In a study, the acidity of Coca-Cola was shown to neutralize the interaction between a class of medication commonly used to treat acid reflux and a cancer drug.1
  • This also opens up the possibility of using Coca-Cola to neutralize drug interactions affecting other similar cancer medications.

Drug interactions can range from clinically irrelevant to some that are downright dangerous. Cancer medications are not exempt from this. And if you or a loved one is taking medications for cancer, drug interactions can be a real problem for both you and your healthcare team.

Tarceva (erlotinib) is a medication for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a common type of lung cancer. Before the body can absorb Tarceva, it is first ingested and dissolved by acids in the stomach.2

Tarceva is known to be affected by proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) – drugs that are commonly used to lower stomach acidity for conditions such as acid reflux. Common PPIs include Prilosec (omeprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). PPIs can reduce the amount of Tarceva absorbed by the body by 46%.2-4

So if you or a loved one need to take both Tarceva and a PPI, can you just take them with an acidic drink like Coca-Cola?

Yes you can, says Dr. van Leeuwen and colleagues in an elegant study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.1

The study reported that when Coca-Cola Classic was used to take Tarceva and a PPI, the amount of Tarceva absorbed by the body increased by 39% vs. when water was used.1

Bottom line

  • PPIs can reduce the amount of Tarceva getting into the body by 46%, but adding Coca-Cola Classic to the mix brings this back up by 39%.
  • So if you or a loved one is taking Tarceva for lung cancer, and you can’t avoid taking a PPI like Prilosec or Nexium at the same time, ask your doctor if taking them with Coca-Cola would help.
  • The authors also suggested that based on the way Coca-Cola works, the results of this study may extend to other drugs like Tarceva, such as: Sprycel (dasatinib), Iressa (gefitinib), and Tasigna (nilotinib).1

Source study: van Leeuwen, et al. J Clin Oncol 2016;34(12):1309-14. A paid subscription may be required.

References: 1. van Leeuwen, et al. J Clin Oncol 2016;34(12):1309-14. 2. Erlotinib Prescribing Information, 2016. 3. Omeprazole Prescribing Information, 2016. 4. Esomeprazole Prescribing Information, 2014.

Photo adapted from original by Kevin O’Mara, used under license.

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