|Jennifer Reinke, Pharm.D., RPh.|
“Everyone has the potential to have an adverse drug reaction and no medicine is risk free,” warns Jennifer R. Reinke, Pharm.D., RPh., of Home Care Pharmacy. The National Institute of Health defines an adverse drug reaction as a harmful or unpleasant reaction related to the use of medicine.
According to Dr. Reinke, adverse reactions fall into two main categories: side effects like nausea or a reduction in the drug’s desired effect—like combining certain antibiotics with milk and diluting the drug’s wallop. Everyone should pay close attention to the prescriptions, beverages and herbal supplements they take.
Food and beverage
The “wake you up in the morning” glass of grapefruit juice shouldn't be taken with certain blood pressure-lowering drugs and cholesterol medications. “It’s best to avoid all citrus juices when taking your medications,” advises Dr. Reinke. She suggests drinking water to swallow your pills.
Alcohol can increase or decrease the effects of many drugs. “If the drug is metabolized by the liver, alcohol is not allowed,” warns Dr. Reinke. Taking Flagyl (an antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections) and drinking alcohol may result in an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, sweating and nausea. “Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs is the number one drug-food interaction question I get from my customers.”
Taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors for depression and eating chocolate could cause a sharp rise in blood pressure. Dr. Reinke notes that the antibiotic Zyvox interacts with chocolate and smoked or dried meats. Dairy products can also be a bad companion for some medications.
According to Dr. Reinke, combining dietary supplements and medications has not been widely studied, but data from emergency departments and poison control points to supplement and drug combinations to avoid. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins that can build up in your system. “Vitamins D and E are especially popular these days due to their link to bone and heart health,” explains Dr. Reinke. But taking vitamin E with a blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin can increase anti-clotting activity and put you at risk for a significant bleeding event. St. John’s Wort can reduce the concentration of medications in the blood. “Do not take an herbal supplement without first talking to your healthcare provider,” emphasizes Dr. Reinke.
Knowledge is power
If you’re in the habit of tossing the leaflet that accompanies your prescription into the trash, stop! The leaflet details medication side effects and precautions, so take the time to read it, advises Dr. Reinke. Here are some other suggestions on how you can be a well informed prescription drug consumer:
- Keep your medications in their original containers.
- Schedule time to talk to your Primary Care Physician or pharmacist about your medications and possible interactions.
- Check with your PCP or pharmacist before taking an over-the-counter, or OTC medication or supplement if you’re on a prescription medication.
- Tell your PCP and pharmacist about any new drugs prescribed by specialists
- Use one pharmacy for all drug needs. Unless affiliated, pharmacies can’t exchange prescription information with one another.
- Keep a record of your medications, OTC drugs and supplements
By: Anne Gill