It is not uncommon for a person to take multiple medications for different health conditions but the risk of drug interactions is ever present. Normally, a physician performs a thorough medication history before prescribing any medication to avoid possible interactions. As such, it is very important to inform your healthcare provider of all health products you currently and normally use; this includes prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and other health products.
What is drug interaction?
Medications contain active chemical ingredients that, when taken together and metabolised by the body, can cause interactions. These drug interactions can vary from loss of effectiveness to increased side effects of any of the medications involved.
The likelihood of drug interaction increases as the number of drugs taken simultaneously increases. Therefore, people who are on multiple medication regimens are at higher risk for drug interactions. Although there is very limited data about drug interaction cases, it is estimated that there are thousands of people who are hospitalized each year due to drug interactions. Medication interaction can also cause pain and suffering to the victim, not to mention, the added burden in the healthcare costs.
How common is drug interaction?
Unlike other medical emergencies, drug interactions are unpredictable yet very complex. Although there are known interactions, they do not always happen in every individual. On the other hand, it is also possible for some drugs to interact with each other even if they are known to be safe with each other. The unpredictability of drug interactions is primarily due to a lot of factors that include lifestyle (diet and exercise), age, metabolism, drug doses, underlying medical conditions, interval between medications, and duration of treatment.
In most cases, interactions can be avoided if the drugs are taken at separate times. Nevertheless, drug interactions are a real threat and should be seriously considered. Moreover, countless drugs have been recalled because of their increased potential for drug interactions and serious health problems.
How to prevent drug interactions?
Here are simple but effective ways on how you can prevent potentially serious drug interactions.
- Make a list of all the drugs and health products you use, including prescription and OTC medications, herbal remedies, vitamins and food supplements. Share it with your healthcare provider.
- Inform your physician when medications are discontinued or added.
- Inform your physician about significant lifestyle changes.
- Know about the common side effects and drug interactions of every medication you take.
- Work with your healthcare provider to eliminate or decrease unnecessary medications from your daily medication schedule. Never discontinue or decrease dosage of your medications unless instructed by your healthcare provider.
- Avoid taking OTC or herbal remedies without consulting your healthcare provider. Read the label of your medications before taking any OTC drugs or herbal remedies to check for possible interactions.
- Report any unusual side effects or reactions with medications you take.
- Follow your medication regimen thoroughly and visit your healthcare provider regularly while on multiple medications.
Drug interactions are very preventable if only individuals follow their medication instructions and comply with their treatment regimen. Severe drug interactions can cause unconsciousness and even death. Training for drug overdoses and unconsciousness victim care is covered in workplace approved first aid training. Whenever you suspect a serious drug interaction do not hesitate to contact emergency medical services (EMS).
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