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Drug interactions: Ask questions when in doubt

According to the Medication Safety Program by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 700,000 people visit emergency departments each year because of adverse drug events. Almost 120,000 of these people end up hospitalized because of their need for further treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that drug interactions can cause unexpected side effects, make your medication less effective or make a certain drug more powerful. Some drug interactions can be fatal, but you can use a bit of common sense and knowledge to reduce the chances of experiencing a harmful drug interaction. One of the most important things to do is to read the medication's label each and every time you take a prescription or non-prescription drug.

The FDA divides drug interactions into three categories, which include:

-- Drug-drug interactions: This happens when two drugs or more interact with each other, producing a side effect that is unexpected.

-- Drug-beverage/food interactions: This happens when a drug reacts unexpectedly when mixed with a beverage or food. Alcohol mixed with many kinds of drugs can cause a significant decline in your reactions.

-- Drug-condition interactions: This happens when you have a medical condition that makes a drug harmful.

It's not just prescription drugs that you have to be worried about. Non-prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications can also produce unexpected or unwanted side effects, as well as seriously harmful effects.

If you have questions about possible drug interactions, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Each time a new drug is prescribed, talk to your pharmacist to see if there are any adverse drug interactions that you need to know. If you suffer harm because of a drug interaction, you might be able to pursue compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages with the help of an attorney.

Source: Food and Drug Administration, "Drug Interactions: What You Should Know," accessed March 30, 2016

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