With the cooler weather and flu season quickly approaching, illnesses are imminent. And as a result, people are taking more pills. But they may not be considering the harmful interactions that can occur when taking multiple prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements. Adverse drug reactions (ADR) are a significant public health issue that you can avoid.
Unintended drug interactions may be deadly.
It’s common for patients to see different doctors for various conditions, and in turn, receive more than one prescription. Unfortunately, patients who have multiple doctors may not receive consistent guidance as to how the medications they are taking interact when taken together.
According to a 2017 Consumer Reports survey, more than half of American adults regularly take prescription medication–four, on average—increasing the risk of harmful drug interactions. When you combine prescriptions with over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements, the risk increases. Even the caffeine in coffee and tea may be detrimental and can change how a patient responds to medication.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 2,000,000 serious ADRs, caused by one or multiple drugs, occur every year in the United States, leading to 100,000 deaths. ADRs are the fourth leading cause of death in the country, causing more deaths than pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia, and car accidents.
Know what you’re taking.
When it comes to taking medication or other supplements, follow these important tips:
- Create a list of the medicines and supplements you are taking, and ask your doctors if it’s safe to take all of them together. Ask about side effects, the correct time, and sequence to take each medication or supplement, and what drugs should be taken with or without food.
- Share information with all of your healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and nurses as well as your doctors. Encourage your healthcare professionals to communicate with each other. Ongoing coordination between care providers will enable them to make the most appropriate medical decisions for you and give them better access to the most up-to-date information about your course of treatment.
- Review your medications on a regular basis with your doctors to determine if they are still needed.
- With guidance from a doctor or pharmacist, stay organized by using a dosage schedule and pillbox to ensure that medications are taken in the right amount at the right time of day or night.
- If you have a caregiver make sure they are familiar with your medications and needs so they can help you take them appropriately.
Don’t hold back information.
There may be situations where patients are afraid or embarrassed to talk about their medications, especially when it comes to antidepressants or other drugs used to treat mental illness. The stigma surrounding mental illness may lead to silence instead of sharing. It’s important for patients to discuss all the medications they are taking with their health care professionals. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and is very common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, there were an estimated 43 million adults 18 and older with a mental illness, representing nearly 18 percent of all adults in the United States.
Solving the problem.
With communication, the dangers of accidental or adverse drug interactions can be avoided. If you head to the doctor for a seasonal illness, make sure you tell them about all the medications you are taking so you can enjoy the holidays with family and friends.
Learn more about medication management and find a doctor who fits your healthcare needs with WellMed. Visit WellMed's website to find a doctor or clinic.