Drug interactions: caution!

Whether or not your medications are prescribed, they should never be taken at the same time unless your doctor or pharmacist gives you the green light.

What is a drug interaction?

A drug interaction is a reaction likely to occur when two or more medications are used simultaneously or when medications are taken with certain foods. The medications may be prescribed, over-the-counter or natural health products.

Did you know that 10 to 15% of hospital admissions are attributed to adverse events associated with medications? Among these are drug interactions, which are responsible for roughly 3% of hospitalizations.  Due to an aging population and to an abundance of new drugs on the market, this problem can be expected to worsen in the not too distant future.

What are the consequences of drug interactions?

Drug interactions can:

  • increase the risk of adverse effects
  • amplify the effects of medications, making them more dangerous or toxic
  • cause a different reaction than the one expected
  • cause medication to be less effective or ineffective

A great number of drug interaction-related adverse effects can be prevented. To do this, a risk must be identified and the appropriate measures taken. For example, these measures may include:

  • replacing one medication by another
  • reducing the dose of one or several medications
  • establishing a medication schedule that spaces medication doses

Pharmacists must analyze your pharmacological record each time you take a new drug to predict possible drug interactions. They must respond accordingly and inform you of what action to take.

Whether the medication is prescribed, over-the-counter or a natural health product, it is important to speak to your pharmacist prior to taking a new medication. Supplements, like the ones containing vitamins and minerals, can also involve drug interactions.

How can drug interactions be prevented?

Here are some things to consider to prevent drug interactions.

  • You should always have an updated medication list when you see a healthcare professional (emergency doctor, family doctor, specialist, dentist, etc.). This list will allow them to provide the appropriate care in light of the relevant information. Remember that your medication may have been prescribed or recommended by various healthcare professionals, so it is important to ensure full access to that information.
  • The My Medication Listtool aims to provide a brief overview of your medications and allergies. It is automatically updated to ensure its accuracy. The size of a credit card, the document can easily be kept in a wallet for easy use at the doctor’s office, emergency room or walk-in clinic.  The My Medication List magnetic cling sticker allows you to display your health record on the refrigerator to facilitate communication between paramedics and emergency room staff. It’s free, ask your pharmacist for it.
  • It’s preferable to always go to the same pharmacy. This enables your pharmacist to have access to all of the information needed to assess potential drug interactions between your medications.
  • Always speak to your pharmacist when you wish to purchase an over-the-counter medication or a supplement at the pharmacy. Pharmacists will help you choose the best-suited medication based on your age, situation and health. They can also inform you of the risk of drug interactions and provide advice on the appropriate action to take.
  • Never take someone else’s medication or share yours with another person. Bring back any outdated medication or medication that is no longer needed to the pharmacy. Pharmacy staff will dispose of it in a safe and eco-friendly way.
  • Clean out your medicine cabinet regularly.
  • Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist questions at each of your appointments. Ask that the information be written down and make sure that you understand. It may also be useful to prepare notes ahead of time, so as not to forget anything. Individuals who are well-informed about their medications generally make better use of them.

Pharmacists are available anytime to inform you about drug interactions or to answer any questions about the safe use of medications. Don’t hesitate to speak to them!

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Drug interactions: caution!

Whether or not your medications are prescribed, they should never be taken at the same time unless your doctor or pharmacist gives you the green light.
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