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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 medications.

Created: 2/26/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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