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Defeat Diabetes
150 153rd Ave,
Suite 300

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

When Meds Don't Mix

Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2004

While there are some people who refuse to take aspirin, many Americans, especially middle aged and older people, take a potpourri of medications every morning and night.

Each medication, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter remedy or an herbal supplement, contains powerful ingredients that have the potential to interact with each other. These drugs can also interact with certain foods, with medical conditions such as diabetes, and even with sunlight.

Such interactions can cause unexpected and sometimes dangerous side effects. They can also worsen an existing side effect, or make a life-saving drug less effective.

Health care consumers today are at increased risk for drug interactions. Not only are they taking more medications, they're seeing more doctors. At one time, people saw one doctor for all ailments. But today, people may have four or five specialists in addition to their primary physician.

They also tend to get their prescriptions filled at multiple pharmacies including those online. Although one doctor isn't likely to meet all of your medical needs, one pharmacy probably can.

"Patronizing one pharmacy reduces your risk of drug interactions," says Bethanne Brown, a visiting instructor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati. "That way the pharmacist has a profile of your other medications." If you can't go to just one pharmacy for some reason, the next best thing is to list all of your medications and share that list with your health care providers and pharmacists.

Consider Herbal Supplements as Well  

Brown recommends that people also let their health care providers and pharmacists know about any over-the-counter or herbal products they might be taking. "There are a lot of interactions between herbals and prescription medications," Brown warns. "But people tend not to look at herbal supplements as medication."

For example, St. John's wort, an herbal supplement often taken, though not proven, to relieve mild depression, can interact with the prescription antidepressant Prozac, causing an increase in Prozac side effects, including nausea, dizziness and drowsiness.

Over-the-counter drugs aren't harmless either. Brown points out that pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin can cause stomach pain and even bleeding ulcers. These side effects can be made worse by drinking alcohol and overeating.

According to Sarah Ray, a pharmacist and ambulatory clinical coordinator for Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, food and drinks can also inhibit the effectiveness of a number of medications.

For example, grapefruit juice is known to interact with the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and green leafy vegetables that contain vitamin K can inhibit the impact of drugs such as warfarin, which is taken to prevent blood clots.

Keeping a Medication Diary  

Medical conditions can also be affected by medication. In someone with diabetes, for example, a beta blocker taken to control blood pressure may mask the symptoms of low blood sugar, such as increased heart rate, increased sweatiness and shakiness.

In addition to sharing your medication list, it's also helpful for you to know as much about your medications as you can and keep a medication diary. Start by talking to your doctor when he or she writes the prescription and to the pharmacist when you pick up your medication. And don't forget to read the label and patient insert.

Ray says that in addition to asking about possible interactions, you should know what a medication is treating; how many times a day you should take it; how long you should take it for; what you should do if you miss a dose; and what to expect in terms of benefits and side effects.

Becoming as knowledgeable about your medication as you are about your car or your computer can help ensure you stay healthy by helping you avoid interactions and allowing your medications to work as they're designed to.

Source: Healthology Press.

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