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Treatment - Multiple Medications: Will They Work Together

How can doctors and pharmacists know if the medicines I am taking will work together?

Computers are used to predict interactions between medicines. These interactions include those that might occur either as a result of using medications together long term or when adding a short course of one medication to a stable regimen. Many pharmacies have this capability, but your pharmacist must know all the medications you are taking for the computer program to identify all possible drug interactions.

Do my doctor and pharmacist need to know about over-the-counter medications?

It is important to understand that "natural" and "herb" is not synonymous with "safe." You can also take too much of a good over-the-counter supplement or nonprescription medicine, such as aspirin. What are the effects of natural supplements on the medicines you take? What about alcohol's effect on medicine? All of these substances can change the way medications work in your body. Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all the medications you are taking and the average amount of alcohol you consume daily or weekly.

Can I take more than one drug together?

The way the body absorbs, breaks down and eliminates medicine from your body is very important to the effect that a medicine has on your system, as well as its effect on other medications. Any time a person is taking five or more medications (as is frequently the case), the chances that he or she will experience a harmful drug interaction are very high.

How can I lessen the chance of a harmful drug interaction?

You, your pharmacist and doctor can work together to lessen the chance of an interaction between medicines. Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the over-the-counter medicines, supplements and prescription medications you are taking. Listed below are some other general guidelines you can follow when taking medications.

Before medication is prescribed, tell your doctor:
  • If you are allergic to any medications.
  • If you are currently taking any other medications (including over-the-counter medications).
  • If you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant or are trying to become pregnant
  • If you have problems taking any medications.
Medication guidelines

Note: These are general guidelines. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidelines specific to your medication.

  1. Keep a list of all your medications and their dosages with you.
  2. Keep a list of all of your allergies and inform your health care provider before any new medication is prescribed.
  3. Take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  4. Do not stop taking your medications unless you talk to your doctor first.
  5. Do not double the dose of your medication.
  6. If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don't panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it has been 24 hours or longer after your scheduled dose, please check with your pharmacist or physician to determine if there should be any adjustments to your dosage regimen.
  7. Do not keep outdated medication or medication that is no longer needed. Throw old medicines away.
  8. Store medications in a dry area away from moisture (unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you the medicine needs to be refrigerated).
  9. Always keep medications out of the reach of children.
  10. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
  11. Do not share your medications with others.
  12. If you store your medications in a container, label it with the medication name, dose, frequency and expiration date.
  13. Keep your medications in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Do not pack your medications in a suitcase that is checked, in case the suitcase is lost.
  14. Take extra medication with you when you travel in case your flight is delayed and you need to stay away longer than planned.
References:

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/25/2012...#4412