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Drug Interactions--What You Should Know

Did you know that nearly 3 billion prescriptions are filled each year in the United States alone?† More than 300,000 over-the-counter medicines are also available and Americans spend $14 billion per year on alternative medicines, dietary supplements and vitamins.† With the increasing use of all of these products-often together-the risk of drug interactions and side effects increases.† To help inform consumers about the risks of these drug interactions, the Council on Family Health and the Food and Drug Administration have produced a guide called "Drug Interactions:† What You Should Know".

The most important thing you should do is read the labels carefully of any product you take.† Also, ask your doctor or pharmacist about how any new medicine will interact with products you are already taking.† Most people aren't aware that any medicine they take may interact with other medicines, or even with certain foods and beverages.† Sometimes the effect of these interactions causes the medicine's effect to increase or decrease; sometimes the effect can cause a medicine not to work at all.† Sometimes the interaction may cause a serious side effect.†† For example, many women are not aware that if they take birth control pills and then take a prescription for certain antibiotics, they must use a back-up method or risk pregnancy.† Many women who take estrogen replacement therapy are not aware that they shouldn't wash it down with grapefruit juice, which can decrease estrogen's effectiveness.

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Created: 3/5/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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