Cytochrome P450, Drug Interactions, & Secondary Porphyria

I’ve read a good deal of discussion about these issues since starting on CAPi. Perhaps I’ve overlooked something in the archives, but I’ve read some recent sources that have given me new information about this complex topic.


Cytochrome P450 (CYP) is an isoenzyme, so called because it is closely related to other variants by homologous genesi. They are named by a root (CYP), family (a number), a subfamily (a letter), and then the gene (another number). So, for example, one isoenzyme goes by the name of CYP2D6. CYP isoenzymes in the same family and subfamilies share structural similarities. The name comes from the fact that the cellular proteins in these enzymes have pigments that absorb light at wavelengths near 450 nm. These enzymes metabolize drugs, toxins and other substances, so they can be safely eliminated from the body. They are critical to the first phase of metabolism that makes a substance (or substrate) water soluble through an oxidation process. If the substrate is not transformed into a form that can be rapidly eliminated, then a second metabolic phase is undertaken (conjugation reaction) that adds a small endogenous molecule to make the substrate water soluble. As previously discussed here, most of the CYP metabolization occurs in the liver. Here’s a site< listing all the different genetic expressions of CYP, but 90% of the processing is done by six: 1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6, 2E1, 3A4,5,7. 50% of all drugs are metabolized by CYP3A4,5,7. 


Each CYP isoenzyme has a list of substrates< that it can process. Some substrates can be processed by more than one enzyme. Each enzyme also has a list of substrates that can inhibit or induce metabolization. If metabolization is inhibited, all substrates that are processed by that enzyme stick around longer and at higher concentrations and therefore are more potent. When metabolization is induced, then all the substrates processed by that enzyme are eliminated more rapidly and so they are less potent. Many of the new drugs that are more potent (or have a longer half-life) achieve that effect by inhibiting the enzyme that processes them. 


You have to watch out for interactions between substrates. For example, if you take Lovastatin for high cholesteroli, you are advised not to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. This is because Lovastatin is processed by CYP3A4,5,7 but grapefruit juice is a moderately strong inhibitor of this enzyme. The interaction would increase the potency of Lovastatin and any other any other drug you take that is processed by CYP3A4,5,7. 


Several other factors can affect CYP isoenzyme activity. Genetic and age differences are modulators for some enzymes. 5-10% of Caucasians are slow metabolizers for the 2D6 enzyme, and 20% of Asians are slow for the 2C19 enzyme. The activity of the isoenzyme 3A4,5,7 declines with age, so drugs that are processed by this enzyme become more potent as you get older. However, 2D6 does not change with age. Bacterial endotoxinsi (lipopolysaccharides - LPSi) and inflammationi from cytokinesi also decrease CYP enzyme activity. 


CYP enzymes contain a hemei iron center which is why they can induce secondary porphyriai. When CYP substrates are ingested, the liver produces more heme precursors to process them. Too much demand can lead to secondary porphyria, particularly as suggest by Dr. Stratton, when the liver is infected with C. pneumoniae.


Here is a list of some of the medications and supplementsi prescribed by both the Stratton and Wheldon protocolsi and their effects on the some of the main CYP enzymes, as described by Flockhart DA. Drug Interactions: Cytochrome P450 Drug Interaction Table. Indiana University School of Medicine (2007).< Accessed June 5, 2008. 


Substance                  Substrate                        Inhibit                                    Induce


Cimetidine                                                    1A2 (Weak)

2C19, 2D6 (Weak),

                                                                        3A4,5,7 (Weak)           

 Clarithromycin            3A4,5,7                   3A4,5,7 (Strong)           


Duloxetine                    2D6                         2D6 (Mod)           

Glucocorticoids                                                                                                3A4,5,7

Ibuprofen                       2C9                       

Isoniazid (INH)                                              2C9, 2C19,                              2E1




Omeprazole                 2C19                        2C19 (strong)                         1A2

Prednisone                                                                                                      2C19

Quercetin                                                       2C8           

Rifampin                                                                                                         2B6, 2C8,

                                                                                                                         2C19, 2C9,

                                                                                                                         2D6, 3A4,5,7

Table 1. CAP drugs, their CYP enzyme substrate, and modulatory CYP effects.


So, what can you conclude from this information? First, pay attention to interactions among drugs and supplementsi that are metabolized by CYP enzymes. Early in my treatment for CFSi, my doctor prescribed both Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Wellbutrin (bupropion). Although not listed in this table, you can find from Dr. Flockhart’s tables that bupropion is a strong inhibitor of the 2D6 enzyme used to metabolize duloxetine. Combine this interaction with the possibility that I am one the 10% of Caucasians who are slow 2D6 metabolizers, and you have a plausible explanation why after a few months duloxetine became toxic for me to take. Recently on the site, there was some discussion< about rifampin. It induces metabolization in most of the major CYP enzymes, so the potency of other concomitant drugs or supplements processed by CYP might be weakened. Jim reported on a article that showed Vitamin Di depletion by rifampin. Vitamin D is degraded by CYP24A1, so apparently rifampin can speed up metabolization in many different forms of CYP. Probably a good idea, as Daisy suggested, to take rifampin at a different time from your other medications and supplements. 


Second, to reduce secondary porphyria cut down on substances that require CYP metabolization. Here’s a list of drugs< that can create problems. You also can look at Flockhart’s table for other CYP substrates. 


Finally, note that not all the antibioticsi we use are metabolized by CYP. About a month ago, I started on the revised Stratton protocol, changing from azithromycin to clarithromycin. I’ve had a much harder time with porphyria symptoms since making the change. Clarithromycin is processed by the CYP 3A4,5,7 enzyme and also is a strong inhibitor of it as well, which is why the antibiotic is potent. Azithromycin is metabolized by biliary elimination and not CYP. This change in medication has increased the demand for CYP in my system, and perhaps produced more heme precursors that cause porphyria. 



CFS since 1/07. Pall anti-oxidant protocol since 8/07 with IM hydroxo-B12. Dxi 3/08: Cpn, EBVi, CMV. Valtrex since 3/08. CAP since 4/08: Biaxin 500 mg BIDi, NACi 1200 mg BIDi, Flagyli 500 mg BID pulse every 3 weeks.  

cchase,  Thank you for the time and care you have taken to present this important information.  It's much better to know, isn't it?

Joyce~caregiver-advocate in Dallas for Steve J (SPMSi).  CAPi since August 06, Cpni, Mpn, B. burgdorferi, systemic candidiasis, EBVi, CMV & other herpes family viral infectionsi, elevated heavy metals, gluten+casein sensitivity. 

Joyce~caregiver-advocate in Dallas for Steve J (SPMSi).  CAPi since August 06, Cpni, Mpn, B. burgdorferi, systemic candidiasis, EBVi, CMV & other herpes family viral infectionsi, elevated heavy metals, gluten+casein sensitivity. 

 cchase- ditto. You've done a magnificent job of rendering some very complex material within my grasp! I really appreciate it. It's a really useful piece of information that may help people sort out why some agents in combination are increasing their porphyriai.

I'm going to attach this to the Handbook appendices so it's easy for folks to locate it and it doesn't get buried in the vast vaults of the forum. I have this image of all the treasures in posts on the forum being like those crates in the Indianna Jones movie, gathering dust in that goverment secret warehouse!

CAPi for Cpni 11/04. Dxi: 25yrs CFSi & FMSi. Currently: 300mg BIDi Roxithromycin, Bactrim DS 2x/day, Tinii 1000mg/day pulses; Vit D2000 units, T4 & T3


CAPi for Cpni 11/04. Dxi: 25+yrs CFSi & FMSi. Currently: 250 aithromycin mwf, doxycycline 100mg BIDi, restarted Tinii pulses; Vit D2000 units, T4 & T3, 6mg Iodoral

 I too did this research back a few years ago when my porpheria test was elevated. It is very helpful to know this info, it can make a huge difference in choices of meds

CPNi pcri and antibody positive , treating MSi, CFSi, TMJ, trigeminal neuralgia, IBS neutropeniai, pus found in facial bone, Doxy 100x2, zithro 250x1 alternate days. Metroi pulses each month.








Found this post very helpful !  Thanks!

In my ever increasing quest to understand the fine differences in drugs and the induction of porphyriai I will add THIS< article on

Cytochrome P450: New Nomenclature and Clinical Implications

from American Family Physicians.    Think the PharmD's who wrote this did a superb job of explaining the issues and pathways complete with drug examples per pathway. 

The more I know the less I know.

Daisy - Husband on CAPi 5/07.   Roxithromycin, Minocycline, Rifampin, Bactrim DS, Mepron, Prednisone, Novantrone, Doxyi, Azithromycin, Flagyli, Diflucan

Daisy - Husband on CAPi 5/07.  Husband died from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Secondary to the Infusion of Novantrone.  Ie - the treatment with the conventional MSi drugs killed him.

Daisy on her own CAP 11/2012. 

Thanks CChase and Daisy for these posts.  I want to keep touch with this discussion.

Louise USA.CFSi.CPn Positive.BbPositive.WheldonCAP6/24/07.NACi,Doxyi,Roxi, Tinidazole Pulses. VitD-3,4000IU. Intermittent Cholestyramine 1-2 packets atbedtimewithpulses&asneeded forporphoria&endotoxinsi

  • CAPi(TiniOnly): 06/07-02/09 for CFSi<
  • MethylationProtocolSupplements: Started08/08
  • Intermtnt CAP: 02/09-02/10
  • Full MethylProtocol & LDNi 02/09
  • Off CAP: 02/10, cont LDN & MethlyProtocol support
  • <
Informative one.

 thanks cchase. This information has really helped me, I am not on CAPi but I suffered major porhyriac symptoms while on a month long course of antibioticsi and have a lot of continuing symptoms still 5 months after the treatment. I have a CPNi IgGi titre of 1:256 and I suspect that this is what is causing my poor health but I haven't been tested at the right time to show elevated porphyrins.

I read that it is possible to be tested for the CYP 450 enzymes but I don't know what this involves or where it is possible to be tested - does anyone out there know whether this is available? or what is involved?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.