Health Topics

Multiple Medications: Will They Work Together?

Quiz yourself to see if your medications can be taken together.

Multiple Medications: Will They Work Together?

1. Pharmacy computers predict interactions between medications that may be harmful to your health; therefore, the consumer can depend on the pharmacist to alert them to all problems with their medications.

  • True
  • False

2. Vitamins and nutritional supplements are not considered medication; therefore, they cannot interact adversely with medications.

  • True
  • False

3. "Natural" and "herbal" are synonymous with "safe."

  • True
  • False

4. The effect of alcohol on medications is minimal.

  • True
  • False

5. Anytime a person is taking five or more medications, the possibility of interaction is overwhelming.

  • True
  • False

6. Full disclosure of over-the-counter medicines and supplements by a patient to both the pharmacist and physician helps to greatly minimize the chance of adverse interaction between medications.

  • True
  • False

Answers: 1-False; 2-False; 3-False; 4-False; 5-True; 6-True

How can doctors and pharmacists know if the medicines I am taking will work together?

Computers are used to predict interactions between medicines. These interactions include those that might occur either as a result of using medications together long term or when adding a short course of one medication to a stable regimen. Many pharmacies have this capability, but your pharmacist must know all the medications you are taking for the computer program to identify all possible drug interactions.

Do my doctor and pharmacist need to know about over-the-counter medications?

It is important to understand that "natural" and "herbal" is not synonymous with "safe." You can also take too much of a good over-the-counter supplement or non-prescription medicine, such as aspirin. What are the effects of natural supplements on the medicines you take? What about alcohol’s effect on medicine? All of these substances can change the way medications work in your body. Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all the medications you are taking and the average amount of alcohol you consume daily or weekly.

Can I take more than one drug together?

The way the body absorbs, breaks down, and eliminates medicine from your body is very important to the effect that a medicine has on your system, as well as its effect on other medications. Anytime a person is taking five or more medications (as is frequently the case), the chances that he or she will experience a harmful drug interaction are very high.

How can I lessen the chance of a harmful drug interaction?

You, your pharmacist, and your doctor can work together to lessen the chance of an interaction between medicines. Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and prescription medications you are taking. Listed below are some other general guidelines you can follow when taking medications.

Before medication is prescribed, tell your doctor:

  • If you are allergic to any medications
  • If you are currently taking any other medications (including over-the-counter medications)
  • If you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant
  • If you have problems taking any medications

Medication guidelines

Note: These are general guidelines. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidelines specific to your medication.

  1. Keep with you a list of all your medications and their dosages.
  2. Keep a list of all your allergies, and inform your health care provider before any new medication is prescribed.
  3. Take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  4. Do not stop taking your medication unless you talk to your doctor first.
  5. Do not double the dose of your medication.
  6. If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don’t panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule.
  7. Do not keep outdated medication or medication that is no longer needed. Throw old medicines away.
  8. Store medications in a dry area away from moisture (unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you the medicine needs to be refrigerated).
  9. Always keep medications out of the reach of children.
  10. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
  11. Do not share your medications with others.
  12. If you store your medications in a container, label it with the medication name, dose, frequency, and expiration date.
  13. Keep your medications in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Do not pack your medications in a suitcase that is checked, in case the suitcase is lost.
  14. Take extra medication with you when you travel in case your flight is delayed and you need to stay away longer than planned.