Medication is often a fact of life, especially as we age. Just as we explore potential side effects, equally as important is to understand possible interactions with other medications, both over-the-counter and prescribed.
Preventing interactions takes awareness. If you are taking multiple medications or caring for someone who is unable to manage theirs, there are things you can do to minimize potential hazards
Pharmacists and doctors are well-trained to review and predict drug interactions – here are some additional suggestions to lower risks:
1. Your pharmacist can be your friend
Most pharmacies allow and even encourage patients to bring ALL their medications in for a med check or medication reconciliation. This includes prescriptions as well as OTC (over-the-counter) supplements
2. Empower Yourself
The internet is a powerful tool for research. Learn about the drugs you are prescribed or already taking at sites such as drugs.com, webmd.com, rxlist.com and others. ALWAYS read the medication guide that comes with your prescription as well as warnings on the bottle for drowsiness, alcohol consumption, driving, etc. Review all information and ask questions of the prescribing physician.
3. Fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy
This allows for a relatively easy “medication check up” to be done electronically. Be sure to let your pharmacist know if you have discontinued any previously prescribed medication.
4. Treat supplements the same way as prescription meds
If you decide to try a particular supplement, ask your pharmacist about known interactions. Go online and read about it. Just because it is available without a prescription, any supplement can have potential interactions with other medications and food you are ingesting. Think of herbal remedies as medication that can pose similar risks as prescriptions.
5. Understand that food can also have impact
Either through your research or through your pharmacist, you can find out about what impact certain foods can have on your medication efficacy (and safety!)
6. Caffeine, Alcohol, Recreational Drugs
Understanding the effects of these substances and how they can increase your danger for interaction is imperative. Your goal should be to have a pharmacist or physician understand everything you are ingesting.
Not telling the truth about this can be dangerous to your health!
7. Do not buy drugs from unknown or risky online suppliers
8. Never take medication prescribed for someone else
Communication is primarily your responsibility, as is educating yourself to maximize treatment of any condition you may have. Always consult with your medical providers. If you are not part of an HMO or Managed Care, you can’t be sure that each provider you see has a complete view of your medical record. Even if you are, in fact, part of a managed care organization, it is advisable to have a clear understanding of your treatment and medication, and empower yourself to lower the risk of interactions and maximize your medical treatments.
If you don’t feel comfortable with these types of conversations, a healthcare advocate is a wise solution – someone who can accompany you to your pharmacy and medical appointments. (see our article in this issue!!)