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Nov.-Dec. 2011, Vol. XXVI, No. 6
 
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Look for medication interactions
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Blue MedicareRx (PDP)SM News
Look for medication interactions

Are you at risk?Nearly half of all Americans take at least one prescription medication. Taking over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, vitamins and herbal or dietary supplements is common, too. But using more than one medicine or remedy raises your risk of an interaction. This occurs when one medication affects how well another works. The combinations can lead to side effects – and the risk for interactions increases with age. Some interactions can have serious results (even life-threatening) and require medical help. For example:

  • Antacids may prevent absorption of some medications, such as antibiotics.

  • Aspirin is a pain reliever that helps keep blood from clotting. Taking aspirin if you’re on a blood thinner such as warfarin, however, can lead to excessive bleeding.

  • Decongestants can raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels if you’re also taking blood pressure medication or an MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor.

  • Herbal remedies or dietary supplements may lead to problems, too. Ginkgo can cause bleeding, and ginseng may increase your risk of blood clots if you’re taking a blood thinner.

  • Supplements, such as multivitamins that have iron, may keep tetracycline, a common antibiotic, from working.

Common symptoms of a drug interaction may include headache, heartburn, nausea or dizziness. You can help prevent interactions by reading all medication labels – especially the warnings. Do this for all medications, vitamin supplements and herbal remedies you take.

Share your drug list with your doctor
Don’t forget to tell your doctors about everything you’re taking. They will rely on this information when deciding what type of medication to prescribe for you. If you’re starting a new medication and have any unexpected side effects, tell your doctor.

Here are some tips to help minimize your risk:

  • Keep a list of all the medications you take, both prescription and nonprescription. Bring this list with you every time you visit a health care provider.

  • If you take prescription drugs, ask your doctor or pharmacist about interactions before you take OTC medications or supplements.

  • Have all your prescription medications filled at one pharmacy.

  • Store all your medications in their original containers so you can identify them.When you begin taking a new medication or refill a prescription, read all labels and drug warnings carefully.

If you have any questions about a medication or how to take it, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

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Ways to remember to take your medicine

Unless you have the memory of an elephant, you probably forget to take your medicine now and then. That’s especially likely if you take several different medicines. To help you remember, try these tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other health organizations:

Keep them in your line of sight. Put your medicine where you’ll see it during your normal daily routine. For instance, keep it next to your toothbrush or by your bed. If your medicine is taken with food, keep it on the kitchen table.

Make it a family affair. Ask a family member or friend to call every day and remind you to take your medicine.

Get a “medicine reminder” wristwatch or pager. It will beep or vibrate when it’s time to take your pills.

Go mobile. If every day you use a computer or mobile digital device – such as a BlackBerry or iPhone – you can set up an automatic email, scheduling, or other reminder program.

Try using one of these reminder strategies. You may find you won’t need to keep a string tied around your finger to remind you to take your medications!

 

     
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