Prescriptions and Supplements: Deadly Combinations?
A recent report published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that many individuals, particularly older adults (ages 62-85) are combining prescription medications and over the counter supplements without exploring the risks of doing so. The results were very interesting.
A database of reported and predicted drug interactions was used to determine whether the 20 most common prescription drugs and supplements used by the participants in their study were predicted to cause an adverse reaction when taken together. The researchers showed that 16 combinations of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements were predicted to increase the risk of adverse reactions, most commonly bleeding. Further, another dangerous fact brought to the researchers attentions\ during the study was that the number of adults taking one of these combinations increased during the study period, from 8.4% to 15.1%.
This may not seem like a huge problem, but from 2006 to 2011, the number of older adults (ages 62 to 85) in the United States reported to be taking five or more medications or supplements rose from 53.4% to 67.1%. The study’s lead author, Dima M. Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes, and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago is quoted as saying, “We are trying to improve access to essential prescription medications like statins that could prevent heart disease and improve survival, but we are not prioritizing enough how safe these medications are in the context of all the prescription and nonprescription medications older adults are using.”
To prevent medical emergencies, patients should always disclose everything they are taking to their doctors, including over the counter supplements. For example, taking certain types of fish oil was shown to negatively interact with cholesterol lowering medications and blood pressure medications. People hear “fish oil” and they think nothing bad can come from it. But they need to explore the combinations of supplements with their prescription drugs.