According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 7,000 Americans die annually from adverse reactions to prescription drugs.
Many adverse drug interactions are connected to over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Many people never consider the potential risk of combining OTC medications with their prescription medications.
Some of the most widely used OTC medications include:
- Cough medicine/decongestants
- Pain and fever relievers
- Antacids and anti-gas products
According to pharmacist Robert Baker, these OTC medications pose potential for adverse drug interactions with many commonly prescribed cholesterol and blood pressure medications, such as statins and diuretics.
Baker shares a few interactions and ingredients to be aware of:
- Antacids are high in sodium. Sodium reduces water excretion from kidneys resulting in higher blood pressure due to extra fluid in blood vessels. Taking antacids impedes the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
- Decongestants contain phenylephrine (brand name: Sudafed). Phenylephrine increases blood pressure by increasing your heart rate and constricting blood vessels.
- Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen also have potential to elevate blood pressure levels.
- NyQuil is 20-proof alcohol and should not be combined with statins. When combined you are at increased risk for liver damage.
Baker says the best rule of thumb to follow when reaching for an OTC medication is to know your ingredients and EDUCATE yourself. Talk to your pharmacist and doctor to know what ingredients are safe for you to consume based on your medical diagnosis and prescribed medications.
Baker emphasizes the huge problem surrounding self-medication. Many want a solution to their symptom now. They don’t want to wait and go to the doctor. They don’t want the financial cost associated with a doctor’s appointment. This leads to self-medicating which can be very dangerous.
After a lengthy amount of research and 30 years working as a pharmacist, Baker realized there was a problem with people obtaining overall drug information and having what they need to know in one location.
The top three questions he is consistently asked include:
- Can you give me a list of all the medications I’m taking to share with my doctor?
- What are the interactions between these medications?
- What’s the dosage and how do I take this?
This led him to create the MyRxProfile app. Simple and easy to use, the MyRxProfile app allows you to check for drug interactions by swiping on your phone or scanning a bar code.
When you set up your app profile you enter all your currently prescribed medications. This allows you to always have a list of your current medications handy and ready for sharing with your doctor(s).
When you are looking to use an OTC medication, you scan the bar code while shopping and the app will list for you the medication ingredients and potential interactions with the drugs you are currently taking so you avoid combining medications that will cause harm.
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Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.