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Ten Tips For Ensuring Medication Safety

By Seymour Ehrenpreis and Eli D. Ehrenpreis

(Page 2 of 3)

Be aware of instructions about avoiding particular foods and/or alcohol. Particular foods and beverages may be off-limits when taking certain medications. Grapefruit juice, a favorite among seniors, for instance, can interact with a number of medications and render them ineffective. It is equally important to find out if dietary supplements may be required when taking a particular drug. Some medications may deplete the body of nutrients. Consequently, a patient’s diet may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Understand what possible side effects may occur and watch for them. Be particularly mindful of reactions or symptoms that should be reported to a doctor immediately. It is important to note that medicines often affect senior citizens differently than younger adults. What may be an innocuous reaction in a younger person may in fact be much more serious for a senior. Be vigilant about educating yourself on possible drug-related reactions and be especially vigilant about knowing which may require immediate medical attention.

Be certain to learn whether there are specific over-the-counter medications that should be used with caution or avoided altogether when taken along with prescription drugs. Too often, many may assume that over-the-counter medications are “safe” simply because they are widely available and accessible. It is not always recognized that some over-the-counter drugs may actually weaken and impede a particular prescription drug’s effectiveness. Common antacids, for example, have the potential to minimize the effectiveness of a number of important drugs - in particular certain antibiotics - and the combination should be either avoided or taken only after consultation with the treating physician or a pharmacist.

Understand the risk associated with taking any herbal supplements in conjunction with medications. Similar to over-the-counter medications, many assume that herbals are completely “safe”. Using herbs to treat specific medical conditions has become increasingly widespread in the not-so-distant past. Unfortunately, many physicians and pharmacists are unaware of interactions or complications that herbals can cause. Interactions with herbals can reduce effectiveness of medications in a number of cases, but in some instances herbals can actually increase the toxicity of a medication. Consequently, it is imperative to proceed with extreme caution and be educated about the potential for problems.

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