Drug Safety Information
Taking medicine safely, prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), involves more than just taking the right amount at the right time. Avoiding drug interactions is also important. There are three main types of drug interactions:
- Drugs with other drugs
- Drugs with food and beverages
- Drugs with dietary supplements
Tips for Taking Medication Safely
- Always read drug labels and package inserts carefully before taking medication
- Learn about warnings issued for prescription medication, OTC products and supplements
- Keep medication in its original container for easy identification
- Ask your health care provider about what to avoid when prescribed a new medication. For example food, beverages, dietary supplements and even sun exposure
- If you take prescription medication, check with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking an OTC medication
- Use one primary pharmacy for all of your medication needs
- Keep your health care providers informed about all medications used
- Keep a record of your prescription medication, OTC medication, and supplements used. Bring this list to your health care provider visits.
For more information and to download a sample medicine record, go to the Food and Drug Administration website.
Drugs with Other Drugs
Not all medications, prescription, OTC or supplements are meant to be taken together. Drugs can interact with one another, causing adverse reactions from mild to severe. When a medication is prescribed or recommended, make sure your health care provider is aware of other medication you are currently taking, including hormonal contraception. Some medications for mental health issues and even common antihistamines may cause serious interactions.
Drugs with Food & Beverages
Possible consequences of drug interaction with food and beverages can include delayed, decreased, or enhanced absorption of a medication. Food can also impact the bioavailability (the degree and rate at which a drug is absorbed into someone’s system), metabolism, and excretion of certain medications.
- Common examples of food and beverage interactions with medication include:
- Alcohol: it is recommended that alcohol be avoided when taking any medication. Alcohol can decrease or increase the effect of many drugs.
- Grapefruit juice
To learn more about drug interactions for a specific medication, make sure to read the drug label and any information contained in the medication packaging for prescription medication, OTC medication and supplements.
Drugs with Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary.” Dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and “natural” ingredients” such as herbs and botanicals as well as other substances used to supplement the diet.
Examples of dietary supplements that have been shown to interact with medication include:
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Vitamin E
- Ginkgo Bilboa