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Tips for caregivers to avoid prescription drug interactions

© iStock - Oleg Elkov
Eric Tegethoff

(Washington News Service) People taking care of someone should take notice of their medications because interactions between drugs can have dire consequences. 

In extreme cases, drug interactions can pose a threat to people's health, possibly causing bleeding or leading someone to feel dizzy and fall down. 

Dr. Leigh Ann Mike is a clinical associate professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and noted that patients might have multiple doctors prescribing to them.

She said one way to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions is to stick with one pharmacist.

"So if you have all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy," said Mike, "the pharmacist would know everything you're on and they could screen more confidently and thoroughly than if you have certain prescriptions at different pharmacies because the pharmacy computer systems don't always talk to each other."

Mike also said people should take advantage of the time they have with their physician to ask any questions about potential drug interactions.

She noted that people might think that any drug that is not a prescription is safe and can't cause an adverse drug interaction.

"Drug interactions could happen with things that you can purchase over the counter, with supplements, with herbal products and with other things that aren't considered drugs but can affect a person," said Mike, "like, for example, alcohol."

Mike said some pharmacies can review people's medications, including prescriptions and over the counter drugs - but noted that has become harder during the pandemic as more pharmacists are stretched thin in their jobs. 

But she noted that most insurance companies with Medicare Part D offer medication therapy manager services annually for free to people with those plans. 

During a comprehensive medication review, patients or their caregivers talk about all of the medications they are taking, prescribed or not.

"Even if you might have your prescriptions filled at different places," said Mike, "having somebody who's trained and skilled for a comprehensive medication review could identify drug interactions that way."