It is estimated that more than half of older adults in the U.S. use prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications together. Research also shows that nearly 30 percent use at least 5 prescription medications. This according to a study in the December 24/31 issue of JAMA.
Rates of both prescription, OTC, and herbal dietary supplements have incresed considerably over recent years. Older adults are the largest consumers of prescription medications and the most at risk for drug related adverse events.
While most OTC's and herbal, natural supplements are probably harmless by themselves, when combined with prescription medications, the interactions may not be good. Some combinations can actually be life threatening. More often though, an OTC, or herbal supplement can cause your prescription medications to not work properly, causing more trips to the Doctor, and more medication adjustments.
Most oral medications are mostly absorbed into the bloodstream. Certain meds or supplements may alter the abbsorption if taken at the same time. An example of this would be a commonly prescribed medication called Actonel, or Fosamax. When these are taken with any nutrients, including juice or coffee, they are essentially inactivated.
Factors that increase drug interactions include:
Taking multiple medications
Visiting more than one physician.
Taking herbal supplements without first discussing them with your physician.
Taking medications and consuming alcohol.
What you can do to reduce the risk of adverse reactions:
Purchase all prescription medications from the same pharmacy
Read all of the information given on the medications
Tell your physician about any and all supplements you are taking.
Take a list of your medications, even those prescribed by the physician with you to your appointments. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Never assume that the physician is going to remember, or read in your chart, exactly what all he has previously prescribed. Also, go over your list of medications periodically with your physician to ensure he/she still feels it is necessary for you to continue taking them.
Becoming drug savy and proactive can save you additional trips to the doctor. It can also save your health.
For more information on becoming proactive in your medical care, please click here.