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Medication Management

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Avoiding Drug Interactions

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According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, more than 34 percent of seniors take medications prescribed by more than one physician and 72 percent take medications that were prescribed more than six months ago. This is one reason why caregivers need to be aware of the potential for drug interactions. There may be times when multiple medications are needed to manage symptoms or provide relief in some form. Interactions occur when medications don’t work in tandem with one another and instead one of the drugs or both of them together adversely affect your loved one’s health.

Prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications should both be considered when looking at drug interactions. Herbal remedies and food interactions can be a source of concern as well. Finally, drug reactions are just as critical as interactions since they can cause problems for the patient as well.

Medication-Medication Interactions:

Drug interactions are often a concern for people since as they age, they tend to take even more medications. What most people don’t realize, however, is that common OTC medications can cause serious drug interactions as well. For this reason alone, it is critical to take a complete list of medications to both your doctor and your pharmacist.

Some patients may think it is “overkill” to provide the list to both the doctor and the pharmacist. After all, the doctor prescribes medication; he should know the interactions to look for, right? Well, not always.

Pharmacists train in medication and specialize in learning about interactions. It is best to check with both of them just to be sure that nothing can adversely affect your loved one’s health. Experts use this explanation as a basis for suggesting that individuals use the same pharmacy each time they have a prescription filled. The pharmacy keeps records and flags the account for possible drug interactions. Bring a record of any OTC medications that your loved one takes as well so that your pharmacist can have a complete record of medications given at home.

Almost all pharmacies provide printed leaflets with each prescription. Read these leaflets carefully and pay close attention to the side effects and possible drug interactions. If you need to ask a question about the medication, it helps to take the leaflet to the doctor with you. You can also call the pharmacist with your question to be sure that the medicine your loved one was prescribed is one that can be safely taken without causing problems with other medications.

The Ohio Department on Aging provides an information sheet with helpful information about drug interactions and reactions. Some of the interactions they list include:

  1. One medication can increase or decrease the effectiveness of another.

  2. Taking two medications can produce one interaction that can be dangerous for the patient.

  3. Taking two medications that are similar can produce one reaction that is greater than one would normally expect.


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