A Few Things You May Not Know About Drug Interactions

Drug interactions happen more often than you might think. Anytime you mix another drug with your medication there is the possibility of some negative result. If medications can’t combine to work together adverse drug effects appropriately they could cancel each other out or cause more undesirable reactions.

Q. How serious is drug interaction?

A: Side effects vary. They can be mild and fairly harmless to severe and life-threatening. Just listening to the list of possible side effects in a pharmaceutical commercial can give you some idea. It has been reported that adverse drug reactions is the fourth leading cause of death.

The risk multiplies with the number of drugs you use. According to the FDA around 40 percent of people in the US take at least four prescription medications. Seniors are at greater risk since they generally take more prescriptions. Other factors figure in such as age, weight, diet, disease, type of medication, and overall condition of the patient.

Q. What are some examples of harmful drug combinations?

A: Drug-drug interactions can develop with any drug including illegal substances, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies. Food-drug interactions can also arise when eating or drinking certain things while taking a drug. Drug-condition interactions can result in a patient with a particular medical condition.

Some examples of each of these:

• Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine after a sedative can produce unwanted drowsiness.
• Prescription blood thinners and aspirin or the herbal supplement ginkgo can trigger excessive bleeding.
• Antacids affect with the way some medicines are absorbed, threatening their effectiveness.
• Certain cholesterol-lowering drugs hinder a brand of heart-rhythm medicines.
• A class of drug for depression can mess with blood pressure medicine and bronchodilators needed for breathing problems.
• Dairy products hamper an antibiotic’s absorption into the bloodstream and drinking grapefruit juice can impact over 50 different prescriptions.
• Mixing alcohol with various drugs is especially risky for any number of adverse effects. And alcohol with aspirin or Ibuprofen can result in stomach bleeding.
• Many decongestants will raise blood pressure.
• Blood pressure drugs called beta blockers may intensify breathing difficulties with asthma or COPD patients.

Q. What is the best way to avoid unpleasant medication reactions?

A. Be aware and involved in your own health.

• Keep a current list of all your prescription drugs as well as over-the counter, natural or herbal remedies.
• Make sure your doctors have an up-to-date list also.
• Carefully read package inserts and information sheets included with your prescriptions.
• Read the labels on all over-the-counter treatments and heed the warnings.
• Take advantage of online tools to learn about possible interactions concerning you.
• Consult with a Medical Expert or pharmacist.

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