Avoiding Drug Interactions

Know your medicines to avoid drug interactions

(RxWiki News) A lot of us take multiple medications, often combining prescription and over-the-counter medicines with vitamins and herbal supplements. While medications are important for staying healthy, taking certain medications together can sometimes cause serious side effects.

Taking all your medicines safely can get confusing. But arming yourself with information about your medications and supplements can help you prevent unnecessary, life-threatening mishaps.

Keep a list of your medications with you at all times. You never know when this information might be needed, whether it's for a simple trip to the pharmacy or a medical emergency.

Include on your list the brand and generic names of your prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as how much of each drug you take and how often you take it. List medications even if you only take that medication once in a while, when needed. Here is an example:

  • Synthroid (levothyroxine), 100 mcg: Take one tablet daily in the morning before breakfast
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine), 10 mg: Take one tablet daily
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen), 500 mg: Take one tablet as needed for a headache

Include all vitamins and supplements on your list of medications. These items can interfere with prescription medications. Whenever possible, jot down the dosage and frequency of each of the supplements you take. Here is another example:

  • Vitamin D3, 2,000 IU: Take one tablet daily
  • Melatonin, 3 mg: Take one tablet before bed, when needed

Sometimes, a dietary supplement combines several vitamins or herbs into one capsule or tablet. While it may make your list a bit longer, consider listing the key ingredients in any combination supplement you take, along with the dosage of each ingredient per tablet or capsule.

Once you have your list put together and typed, print several copies to give to every one of your health care providers, regardless of whether they prescribe new medications or suggest dosage changes. Do not forget that your pharmacist is a key part of your health care team and should definitely have a copy of the list.

If your pharmacy app has a place to include a list of all of your medications, take advantage of this feature. If you are like most people, you always have your phone with you, so if you ever need to refer to your medication profile, it will be on your phone when you need it.

To avoid confusion, both for yourself and any person who might need to treat you in an emergency, never mix medications in the same bottle — even when traveling.

If you are thinking of buying a new vitamin, mineral, or other dietary supplement or adding an over-the-counter medication to your regimen, ask your doctor or pharmacist first. Your health care provider can make sure that the medication or supplement won't interact with your existing medications and that the new product is appropriate for you. Never take a new medication or supplement based on a friend's or family member's personal testimony.