Drug Interactions and What To Do About Them

Is it me or are we being prescribed a lot of medications for a bunch of issues? Well, I don’t think it’s me, and we all need to be very aware of contraindications that could occur when “mixing” medications, and supplements (whether herbal or vitamins).

As we get older, we might face all kinds of medical problems that our doctors/specialists/hospitals are trained to treat with medications. It’s really important to stay on top of these medications and insure that we are not adding to possible complications unwittingly.

I have, over the past several years, kept an ongoing, updated personal list of my health issues, diagnoses, medications and supplements that I give to my doctors/specialists and if/when necessary to the hospital, to give them a heads up. For me, it makes sense to carry it with me, and update on my computer each time something is added or changed, and the new list will replace the old one. As it is pretty extensive, it also saves me time when I meet a new physician – it just gets tacked on with the forms they give me to fill out and all I have to do is print “see attached”, and they can then put that information into their file or scan it.

This is such important information for if/when a new prescription has to be issued. It’s probably a good idea to give to the pharmacist as well (even though they have it all on record), just in case something has changed medically that could affect what should be given to you in a prescription.

Another reason to have this information available is for care-givers. You should probably also indicate somewhere the times that any given medication is to be administered just in case you become unable to give that information to those taking care of you.

We are all getting older, and having this type of information available will save you and others a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to help you.

Actually, I wanted to write about drug interactions, and what to do about them if you do encounter one. So here’s what I learned (aside from what I already knew!):

Read the brochures and information provided to you when you get a prescription filled. Also read everything you can on any supplements you are taking to ensure they won’t interact with anything new given to you.

Talk to your pharmacist when getting a new prescription filled to ensure the new medication doesn’t have any ingredients that could possibly cause you problems. They are the people who know the most about any drugs/medications and are the one to ask the questions, as your physician is not trained to do this, unless of course they were trained in pharmacology (which the majority are not). Their source is the drug companies and their product sales people, or at seminars provided by those same drug companies.

If you have a drug interaction, please contact your doctor and pharmacist right away to get things taken care of, either by having the medication changed to something else, or the dosage lowered (if that’s what needs to be done). It is unwise to stop taking the drug unless the interaction causes an anaphylactic reaction requiring immediate medical assistance (even if you have an Epi Pen). Using an Epi Pen is only a temporary solution and you must (usually withing 15-20 minutes) get yourself to a hospital. This Drug Interactions Checker from Medscape could be helpful, although I’m not sure if it covers Canadian medications.

If timing is an issue when taking medications, get your pharmacist to help you out. I know that our pharmacy provides a system, for those taking multiple medications, to help with dosing at the right times. All you have to do is ask. We have an Amazon Echo Dot (Alexa) that helps remind us to take our medications at the appropriate times during the day. I also have reminders set in my calendar to do the same thing in case we are on the road.

When you have an issue about drug costs – talk with your pharmacist for suggestions as to how to overcome those issues. Perhaps a drug that has been prescribed can be changed to a generic (which will cost less). You could also talk to the drug company making the medication to see if they can help you with the cost (most do offer this service, but again you have to ask).

Something that should also be considered is if there is a non-drug related way to take care of an issue, it should be researched to help avoid any possible interactions. For example, instead of taking pain medication, perhaps physio therapy could be considered to help. It may take a bit longer to achieve the same purpose, but without drugs, you avoid the possibility of health issues that may be related to the drug. Also, if the issue has to do with depression or anxiety, perhaps counselling could be a non-drug alternative.

Sometimes at the spur of the moment, it’s hard to determine what is the best course of action, but being forewarned, is being forearmed. Take a look at your situation, and if any of this rings true, make a list of your medical issues, drugs and supplements, allergies, and doctors to help you get a handle on what’s going on with you! Everyone is different, and everyone will react differently, so these things can help get some control, and may even help improve your overall health.

Have a marvelous day and week ahead.