Recent studies estimate that more than 80 percent of adults 57 and older take at least one prescription drug a day.
Among those, nearly half mix drugs with over-the-counter medications and supplements. Which leads to an alarming statistic of one in 25 could be setting themselves up for unintentional major drug interactions.
Many people think that taking an over-the-counter medication is safe, but sometimes the most common over the counter drug can create serious reactions if you are taking a prescription drug that does not interact well together. Over-the-counter medicines, prescription medications, and some health conditions can add up to an unhealthy combination. Seniors, who are often on multiple medications, should particularly pay close attention to the medications they are taking and how they interact with other substances before they take any over-the-counter medicines.
Mixing various medicines and supplements can lead to unexpected side effects ranging from dizziness and blackouts to internal bleeding. Certain medicines shouldn’t be mixed well, but it’s also important to consider drug-disease interactions. For instance, decongestants can pose a problem for people with high blood pressure.
Here are some common interactions you need to know about:
• Decongestants – Used to combat blocked noses, medicines containing pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine cause the blood vessels to narrow, and may cause blood pressure to spike 40 points. Which can be trouble for people suffering from hypertension.
• Antihistamines and over-the-counter sleep medicines – Some ingredients found in antihistamines like Benadryl and other allergy medications tend to cause a general mental slowing. Store-bought sleep aids like Tylenol PM also have this effect, and can hinder your ability to form memories while using the medicine.
• Over-the-counter pain relievers – Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, and Aleve or other naproxen pain relievers could cause a dramatic spike in blood pressure because they affect blood flow to the kidneys, which can which increase blood volume. Tylenol does not have this effect.
• Blood thinners – The blood thinner Warfarin, sold under brand names Coumadin and Jantoven, negatively interacts with many different drugs, because many medicines have blood-thinning properties of their own. Asprin, Plavex, vitamin E in doses higher than 400 units of a day, and supplements containing fish oil, garlic, ginseng, or gingko can also thin the blood. When paired with Warfarin, these combinations can cause bleeding complications, which are sometimes minor like bruises, but on some rare occasions can lead to stroke or internal bleeding.
Here’s how to cut your risk of medication interactions:
• Know what you’re on. When you go the doctor, make sure you bring a list of all prescription drugs, dietary supplements, vitamins, botanicals, minerals, and herbs you take, as well as the foods you regularly eat. Make sure you include the dosages, too. Not knowing these details can really lead to complications.
• Ask these four questions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist these questions before you start taking any new medicine:
1. Can I take it with other drugs, including over-the-counter medicines?
2. Should I avoid certain foods, beverages, or other products?
3. How will the drug work in my body?
4. What are signs of a possible drug interaction?
• Read the label every time. Some over-the-counter drugs may contain the same active ingredient. Labels sometimes change, so make sure you read it every time you go to purchase it to make sure you’re not getting too much of an active ingredient in different medicines. The label will also tell you to avoid certain types of other drugs or alcohol if they will cause a negative reaction.
• Stick to one pharmacy for all of your medicines. Going to the same pharmacy will make it easier for pharmacists to see a potential drug interaction. If your insurance requires you to order some of your medications by mail, and you go to the pharmacy for other medications such as antibiotics, ask the pharmacist to run a check to look for potential problems. Also be sure to ask the pharmacist for, and read, the package insert because it will provide more detailed information about potential drug interactions.
If you are ever uncertain about how a supplement or medicine, either over-the-counter or prescribed, may interact with what you are currently taking asking the pharmacist can help you avoid unexpected side effects. The knowledgable and friendly pharmacists at The Medicine Chest are always available to answer in questions you may have. If you have any concerns about medicine combinations you are taking, call 352-753-1877 to speak to a pharmacist today.