Senior Drug Interactions | June 25, 2015
Advances in medicine have cured diseases, eased pain, and increased lifespans. With people living longer and the Baby Boomer generation entering their later stages of life, medications, over the counter and prescription, are being prescribed and taken at increasing rates.
Seniors, in particular, are at a greater risk of drug interactions than the general population as they typically take more medications. Taken in certain combinations, drugs can interfere or interact with one another, altering their effectiveness in controlling symptoms and improving health. In some cases the results can be life-threatening.
An University of Chicago Medical Center study published in the Dec. 24/31, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that more than half of seniors take five or more medications or supplements. The study further found that at least one in 25 older Americans—about 2.2 million—take drugs in potentially harmful combinations.
The problem of medication interactions does not involve only prescription medications. The study found that about half of the interactions involved over-the-counter (OTC), or nonprescription medications. Herbal medications, supplements and vitamins—and even some foods and beverages—also interact with drugs to alter their performance.
The following are just a few examples of how nonprescription products can interact with prescription drugs for unhealthy results:
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) recommends knowing the active ingredients in the medicines you take. For instance, OTC pain relievers commonly contain one or more of four different pain relief ingredients—aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. A number of prescription and OTC multi-symptom cold and flu medicines contain these same active ingredients. Seniors should avoid combining medicines with the same active ingredients as this could lead to an overdose of the ingredient.
Food can also alter the effectiveness of medication. NCPIE cites examples:
If you do not know whether any of your medications interacts with foods, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
On its Web site, BeMedWise.org, the NCPIE provides advice on preventing drug interactions, such as: