Ask the Pharmacist: What are Drug Interactions and How do I Avoid Them?

some pills in front of some medicine bottles

“I have been prescribed a new medication but I am wondering if it safe to take with my other medications. How do I know?”

Simply stated, some things just don’t mix.  There are some medications that you should not take while taking other medications.  A drug interaction occurs when a medication’s actions or effectiveness is affected or altered by another substance, such as another medication or supplement, or even food or drink. If you are someone who is taking any kind of prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamin or natural supplement, it is important to make sure you know if it is safe to take them at the same time.  Naturally, most people don’t know how or what medications interact with each other, but it is still important for you to understand and minimize the risks.  Here are some simple tips to help you be as safe as possible and minimize your risks.

  1. Talk to your pharmacist.  When you are given a new prescription medication it usually comes with an information sheet which lists, among other things, drug interactions to be aware of.  Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any other medications or supplements you might be taking and ASK them if it is safe to take your new prescription with them. 
  2. Know WHY and HOW to take our medications.  Should they be taken on an empty stomach? Do they need to be taken at a certain time of day, or spaced a certain number of hours before or after taking a supplement?
  3. Fill your prescription with the same pharmacy or same Canadian pharmacy service to ensure that there is a single, complete record of all of your prescriptions. This will help make sure any potential interactions and conflicts are flagged.
  4. Avoid self-medicating with supplements to avoid experiencing negative interactions.  
  5. Beware of certain foods and beverages, like grapefruit juice or alcohol, which may interact with some of your medications.  Again, speak to your pharmacist about what to avoid.

Taking multiple medications can be confusing, but taking them the right way and knowing how and when to take them can help put you on the road to better health.

If you have questions about your prescription medications or any other medication, please contact our team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). One of our patient representatives will be happy to assist you or transfer you to a licensed Canadian pharmacist for a free consultation. 

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911). 

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