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5 things you can do to avoid medication problems

The average number of medication taken by 65 year old adults is 5.

When we reach the age of 70, the average amount of medications we take rises to 8. Each of our medications may be affecting how the others work, leading to harmful side effects and complications. We’ve created the "5 things you can do avoid medication problems" list to help people avoid harmful drug interactions that can lead to unnecessary ER visits and even hospitalization.

The problem is that sometimes we tend to continue to take medication we no longer need.

1. Know why you are taking each medication.

Many of us take multiple medication every day for many years. 8, 10, 15, even 20 medications per day, as many chronic condition are treated with more than one pill. Sometimes, we are prescribed medications on special occasions, such as while at the hospital, or given a generic drug instead of what we usually take for some reason. Some medication can be administered for a limited time to treat a specific condition. The problem is that sometimes we tend to continue to take medication we no longer need.

How to solve this:

See your pharmacist for a medication review. The pharmacist knows all the drugs that are associated with your conditions, and will make a list that verifies that you are not taking medication you no longer need.

Know what is the purpose of each medication

2. Learn what foods could cause trouble.

Drugs often interact with food. The most common interactions are with alcohol, but there are many other types of foods, healthy foods, that can cause problems when consumed with medication. Vitamin K containing vegetables, grapefruit juice, salted foods (high potassium), even dairy products can all change the way medication work in our body and cause side effects.

How to solve this?

Check for drug-food interactions using websites like to learn about possible interactions and what food to avoid while taking medication.

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Vitamin K containing foods may interact with certain drugs

3. Check for drug interactions.

When our doctor prescribes us a new medication while we are already treated with multiple drugs, their computerized safety systems will almost always show an alert warning from a drug interaction. With patients taking more than 8 drugs, there are over 4,000 possible combination for an interaction. Doctors often dismiss these warnings as it is impossible to administer a warning free medication regiment to a patient who takes more than 8 medications. Our doctor tells us that if we don’t feel well, we should get back and they will think of a solution.

The problem occurs when we suffer from a medication side effect, but we do not associate it as such.

Maybe we are tiered because we had a long day?

Maybe were anxious because life is hard?

Maybe our loss of appetite is something that just happens with age?

These are all examples of known side effects.

How to solve this?

Check for possible drug interactions. You will probably see multiple results indicating possible interactions, but the key is to see if the symptoms mentioned in the interactions description match your symptoms.

Then you should consult with your pharmacist to help solve this and optimize your medication regiment to avoid drug interactions.

Check for drug interactions

4. Pay attention when you take a new medication or when you are sick.

When starting a new medication, a new drug can interact with any of the drugs we already take, with foods, and with our chronic conditions.

Adding a new medication or suffering from a new disease are key moments for possible drug interactions.

How to solve this?

Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medications, supplements and conditions you have, even if you are not asked for it or if it looks irrelevant. For example, when getting “just a lotion”, when prescribed medications from your therapist, or medications for sports injuries.

Be alert for any change in symptoms, and check for interactions and side effects to see if what you feel is a known side effect.

If you are taking more than 3 medications you should consult with a clinical pharmacist at least once a year

5. Talk to your pharmacist.

Clinical pharmacists are the healthcare professionals who are responsible for balancing medication. It is their job. We tend to think that a pharmacist is just the person behind the counter opening extra-long drawers and handing over drugs. That’s just a fraction of a pharmacist’s job. Pharmacists consult doctors in hospitals for medication regiments, they administer drugs at elderly home facilities, and they conduct millions of consultations to patients who take multiple medication to help them avoid side effects and unnecessary visits to the hospital.

How to solve this?

If you are taking more than 3 medications you should consult with a clinical pharmacist at least once a year. You can do this quickly using pharmacy consultation services such as

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