Drug Interactions--What You Should Know
Did you know that nearly 3 billion prescriptions are filled for medicines
each year in the United States alone? More than 300,000 over-the-counter medicines
are also available and Americans spend more than $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. Consumers need to make sure to educate themselves about
the potential risks of these drug interactions, for any prescription and over-the-counter
medicines that they may be taking.
The most important thing you should know is to read the labels carefully of
any product you take. Also, ask your doctor or pharmacist about how any new
medicine (prescription or otherwise) will interact with medicines 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 are then given a prescription
for certain antibiotics, they must use a back-up method or risk pregnancy.
And many women faithfully take their calcium supplements along with a multivitamin
that contains iron-calcium binds iron making it much less effective. . .And
both are constipating. Drinking alcohol is a no-no when taking many different
Created: 2/26/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.