DHEA and Warfarin

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone that can be found in animals, plants and humans. DHEA is produced by the adrenal gland and the body converts it to produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen (sex hormones). Supporters of this hormone suggest it is helpful to protect against heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease as well as play a role in the prevention of diseases like diabetes. They have also spoken of its benefits to improve memory, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and help protect against heart disease. According to the American Cancer society, however, there are no widely accepted guidelines for DHEA.¹

DHEA can be found in a variety of forms as a dietary supplement, as tablets, capsules, cream applications and has even been made into a tea. While the supplement has been promoted for use in many areas, there isn’t much research on its interactions with other drugs or with the benefits from its use, so warfarin users should be cautious.1   

A Brief History

DHEA was discovered in the 1930's and was found to be manufactured in the body by the adrenal glands. Research was done on animals and rodents, but now it appears that the role DHEA plays in the human body is different from its role in animals.1 Before the 1990’s, there were never large DHEA studies done on humans and DHEA was banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a supplement in 1985 due to safety concerns and the overall effectiveness of the studied supplement. It was thought to have the tendency to act like muscle building (anabolic) steroids. DHEA's ban was removed in 1994 by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, and it was back on the market.

While supporters for DHEA exist, there has not been a lot of scientific evidence that has convinced the experts of its benefits. Taken in large doses, this supplement has been known to cause trouble sleeping and irritability as well as the growth of facial/body hair in women. It may also affect hormones like insulin as well as a person’s cholesterol.2 Other reported side effects include hair loss, oily skin, alteration of blood glucose, acne and may stop menstruation.

DHEA Effects on Warfarin

There has not been a lot of research done verifying potential side effects or drug interactions with other medications. However, DHEA may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs such as aspirin, anticoagulants such as warfarin, antiplatelet drugs and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.2 As a patient on anticoagulation therapy, it is best to discuss your interest in non-prescription supplements like DHEA with your health care provider before you try taking a supplement on your own. 

 

References:

1.    American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/pharmacologicalandbiologicaltreatment/dhea

2.    Mayo Clinic.org:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs supplements/dhea/background/HRB-20059173