Drug Interactions: Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Informed
CFH, FDA, and NCL launch updated drug interactions guide
Consumers are taking more medicines than ever before. With nearly three billion prescriptions dispensed each year, a growing choice of nonprescription medicines, and the increased use of dietary supplements, the potential for drug interactions increases. To help consumers avoid potential problems when taking prescription or nonprescription medicines, the Council on Family Health (CFH), in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Consumers League (NCL), has released an update of its popular free consumer guide Drug Interactions: What You Should Know. There are drugs on the market that currently have a pharmaceutical lawsuit against them (read about the paxil lawsuits), so remember to always do your research and ask questions.
“Consumers need to be aware that drug interactions can be caused by medicines, certain pre-existing medical conditions, or even some foods and beverages,” says CFH President Robert G. Donovan. “With this updated information for consumers, the Council on Family Health is reminding everyone to take steps to reduce the chance of drug interactions.”
The guide, first published in 1994, explains the different types of drug interactions, includes questions to ask health care professionals, and stresses the importance of reading medicine labels and package inserts where such warning information is outlined. The pamphlet also contains a chart of drug interaction warnings for some common nonprescription products.
“You can have an interaction with a drug you have been taking if you add another medicine, dietary supplement, or even certain foods or beverages,” says Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. She adds: “Some medicines can even interact with certain medical conditions you may have, such as high blood pressure.
“Mixing a sedative with some allergy medicines can slow your reactions, making it unwise to drive,” cautions Woodcock. “Likewise, mixing medicines with alcohol could also cause an unwanted reaction.”
NCL President Linda Golodner advises: “Always read the medicine label and find out as much as you can about the medicines you are taking. Talk to your health professionals about all drugs – both prescription and nonprescription – and dietary supplements you take and make sure they won’t interact with each other.”
“Remember, information can and does change on the medicine label. Ingredients in products also can change, so read the medicine label the first time and every time you use a medicine,” Donovan stresses. “If you have questions about possible drug interactions, ask your health care professional.”
Single copies of Drug Interactions: What You Should Know are available by writing to the Federal Consumer Information Center, Item #600G, Pueblo, CO 81009. Bulk copies can be ordered from: Council on Family Health, “Drug Interactions,” 1155 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036. Please visit CFH’s web site (www.cfhinfo.org) to order the guide online or for more information about the Council and its educational materials.
The Council on Family Health is a nonprofit organization established more than 30 years ago, dedicated to educating consumers about the proper use of nonprescription and prescription medicines, home safety, and personal health.