Drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, play a large role in our overall well-being. For some people, a once daily oral medication can help regulate their blood pressure. For others, anti-depressants can allow them to enjoy life. Regardless of whether you are taking a drug to quit smoking or an oral contraceptive, you should know about drug-drug interactions.
What are drug-drug Interactions?
If you take more than one medication, these can interfere with each other and affect how one or both are eliminated from the body. Furthermore, one substance can interfere with or alter how the other works within the body. Interactions can occur between all types of drugs; over-the-counter, prescription, herbal and dietary supplements. Even vitamins can produce drug-drug interactions when taken in conjunction with certain medications!
In some cases, drug-drug interactions produce effects so minimal that you may not notice them. For example, you may feel a slight tinge of heartburn from a drug-drug interaction that passes quickly. On the other hand, these interactions can be so severe that they range from nausea to irregular heartbeat.
How can you avoid drug-drug interactions?
When you are prescribed a medication by your physician, they will usually ask if you have any allergies to ensure that what they are prescribing will not cause a reaction. Your doctor will also take your medication history into account when writing you a prescription so that you do not have any drug-drug interactions. Let’s say you are taking BRANDZ daily for an underlying condition, and you are also suffering from strep throat. Your doctor will not prescribe a drug to treat your strep throat that has known drug-drug interactions with BRANDZ. It is important that you disclose with your physician anything you are taking whether it is a multi-vitamin, herbal sleep aid, or anticoagulant (blood thinner).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when your physician writes you a prescription.
- Can I take this medication with over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines and aspirin?
- Will this medication interfere with the prescription medication I am currently taking?
- What are the possible drug-drug interactions that I should look out for?
You can also bring a list of medications you are currently taking with you to your doctor's appointment so you can review the list together to ensure you are not taking any medications or supplements that may interact poorly with one another.
Another way to avoid drug-drug interactions is to speak to your pharmacist when you bring in a prescription to be filled or refilled. Your pharmacist will be able to see if the drug you are being prescribed will react negatively with any medication you are currently taking. Your pharmacist will also make detailed notes in your file for future prescription fills.
Always read the labels of over-the-counter drugs before taking them and remember that herbal or dietary supplements react like traditional medications when they enter the body. Just because something is organic or natural doesn’t mean you won’t have a negative reaction.
Drug-drug interactions can be avoided with a little vigilance on your part and a short conversation with your pharmacist.